1 October 2013
College classes are a chance to expand your mind, explore new subjects, meet new people and learn more than you ever wanted to know about just how expensive books can be. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to find books on the cheap. These helpful hints can trim down your book budget, see also how to find money for education, and help you to work smarter instead of harder.
Find Out If You Need the Textbook First
Plenty of courses have a recommended textbook and plenty of students know that doesn’t mean you’ll actually use them. Each year, thousands of students buy expensive textbooks they open once and then throw into a corner to collect dust until the end of the school year. Talk to former students or ask your professor or TA directly if you’ll need the textbook.
Secondhand books have become a huge industry online. Websites like ABE and Alibris specialize in out of print and hard to find titles – including textbooks. Amazon also offers quite a few options – including a marketplace solely dedicated to used and secondhand books. When shopping online for textbooks, there are a few tips that can help make sure you find a great deal.
Ask About the Edition – Some textbooks go through major revisions every year. Others move the placement of a comma and release it as an Updated Edition. Trawl through the Table of Content, look for a list of updates and changes or simply ask your professor if an older version is fine for the course. Being able to buy an older edition could slash the cost of a textbook in half.
Check the Condition – Secondhand books are, by their very nature, used. However, not all students go through a Highlight Fever phase so many textbooks are in great shape with little, if any, marks or highlights. Others, however, can be so marked up that you’ll start to think the previous owner fostered a deep seated marker scent addiction. If a textbook is priced especially low, be sure to check the notes on its condition. If you’re able to ignore marks and notes in the margins, then a heavily used copy will be a lot cheaper than one with little or no marks.
Cast the Net Wide – When looking for textbooks online, be sure to include websites that aren’t completely dedicated to books. Both eBay and Craigslist can be great places to find used textbooks, especially if you manage to search right after a semester ends. Plenty of students try to sell their own textbooks directly and some even sell them as a lot on sites like Craigslist.
Factor in Shipping – When you buy books online, they could be coming from anywhere. If you’ve only started to look for textbooks a few weeks before class starts, be sure they’ll arrive in time. Also factor in the shipping costs – textbooks are notoriously heavy.
If your university is near a major city, be sure to check out the local thrift stores. Many students don’t bother trying to resell their old textbooks and you may be surprised how many end up on the bookshelves of a local charity shop. While the editions may be older, if your course doesn’t require the most up to date edition, picking up a used copy at a thrift store could make a real difference in how much you end up paying for books.
Consider International Editions
International editions of major textbooks have the same content as domestic editions. The difference typically has to do with the quality of paper and other materials used to publish the book. These books are not available through US websites or stores. That means you’ll need to consider extra shipping costs and more shipping time since you’ll be ordering from abroad.
Explore E-Book Options
These days, more and more publishers are offering electronic versions of popular university and higher education textbooks. Although you won’t be able to easily resell these books once the class is over, they are typically priced much lower than their traditional counterparts.
Renting textbooks has become the newest way for students to help take the crunch out of their book budgets. Smaller websites like Textbook Rentals and Book Renter have become hot buzzwords on college campuses. Even the book giants Amazon and Barnes & Noble are beginning to get into the textbook rental business. Although currently there are a limited number of books you can rent, its growing popularity suggests that soon students will be able to rent everything from Accounting 101 to Zoology 999.
There are many expenses associated with getting a college degree. Paying for tuition and class fees is really the top of the iceberg. Books come a close second in terms of how much of your education budget but these tips can help lessen the sting of buying books for every class. Freeing up a bit of money by getting textbooks cheaper means less stress on your budget and your mind which can make your next semester a lot easier.
Useful samples and examples: