Buying Books

Buying textbooks for your classes can be expensive, especially when you need new books every quarter or semester. Below are tips that may help lessen the cost of this reoccurring expense:

  • Register for your classes as early as possible. Start researching courses as soon as you can and set your schedule early. If you have to change classes at the last minute, it’ll be hard to avoid high textbook prices.

  • Visit the bookstore. Go to the bookstore just to browse. Look for your classes and the new semester’s required books. Ask the bookstore employees to assist you if needed. If your classes’ book requirements are not in yet, come back on that date.

  • Write down the following information for each book:
    • the name and volume/edition of the book
    • the author
    • the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), found on the barcode
    • the price

  • Try to find the books in the library. Check the catalogs of your school library and the local public library. If you can’t find a book there, try to obtain the book via inter-library loan. Depending on the library’s borrowing policies, you may be able to check out books for the whole semester or at least for as long as you’ll need them. You’ll want to get on this early, though, because supplies will be limited. If they do not have the current edition, it is likely that they may have previous editions, with most of the same information.

  • Search for books on the Internet. If you can’t get a book at the library, or will need to keep or write in it, search for better prices online. Usually all you’ll need is the book’s ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Using the Internet, perform a search by entering the ISBN number, without the dashes that separate the digits. You should come up with several exact matches, but if you don’t, try searching by title and author. Verify you have the correct book using the other information you wrote down.

  • Consider renting. Some sites will rent you textbooks for a portion of the cost of purchasing them.

  • Shop around online. Most likely just about any price you find online will be cheaper than the bookstore, but check as many sites as possible to find the cheapest possible book. Check out online auction marketplaces. While you won’t be able to find as many books at auctions, you may be able to find screaming deals.

  • Consider used books. Used books are usually cheaper than new ones, and if you can find a used version online in good condition, it may be worth the purchase. You may also be able to get used books at your campus bookstore, especially if you shop early. Compare prices to find the best deal.

  • Ask about earlier editions. If the current edition’s used price is still too much, use the book name to find an earlier edition. You’ll find that the cheapest used version of the newest edition generally sells for 3-5 times the price of a previous edition. Be aware that page numbers, chapter order, and homework problems will probably be different, and content may also vary. Before buying, be sure to get your professor’s permission. You don’t want to pay for a book twice.

  • Share. Try to take the same classes as your roommates or friends, and share a book. You may learn better if you study as a group.

  • Resell your books. If you won’t need a book after the semester ends, try to resell it as soon as possible. Find out what your campus bookstore and local booksellers will pay, and consider putting up flyers around campus and/or selling it online. If your book is in high demand, you may be able to sell it at a much higher price than you paid for it.

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