Buying Books

Never buy your course books at the college bookstore

It’s usually the first thing on every syllabus: The books. You look at the list and think “man, there’s a lot of reading in this class”. It isn’t until later in the bookstore that you realize the reading list is going to cost you upwards of $300 — and that’s just for biology 101; you still have 3 more classes! We hope that, after reading this, you’ll never have to buy a book at the bookstore again.

College Book Saving Secret #1┬áThe library. Your college probably has a pretty big one and it’s probably linked to a bunch of other colleges and universities that have big ones too. Even city and county libraries will often have textbooks, especially classics for your literature courses. The key to this one is getting there early. (You’re probably not the only one with this idea).

College Book Saving Secret #2: Your classmates. Do you really need each one of your books 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? If not, consider sharing your books with a trusted classmate and splitting the cost. Also, check to see if you know anybody (or know anybody who knows anybody) who took the class before you. You might be able to buy their books cheap or, even better, rent or borrow them.

College Book Saving Secret #3: The Internet. Half.com and Amazon.com are two of the biggies for used books, but you might also want to check out eBay.com and craigslist.org. Every book has its own unique identifier known as an “ISNB”. If you go to the bookstore (or Amazon) and get the ISBNs for your books, go to www.isbn.nu and it will do lots of the comparison shopping for you. Don’t forget to factor in shipping in your purchase decisions.

College Book Saving Secret #4: The Internet, Part II. Amazon.com and books.google.com both have “look inside” features that can be very useful if you really only need a few pages here and there. These features can also be very helpful if you’re trying to figure out how an older edition of a book relates to a newer edition, which leads to…

College Book Saving Secret #5: Your professor. Sometimes it pays to ask if it would be okay to use an older edition (older editions are DIRT cheap because people generally aren’t using them anymore). Many times professors are very open to this since they taught from the older edition last semester and the only reason they’re using the new edition is that the bookstore told them they have to. Even if you don’t ask your professor, there are many circumstances where using an older edition is fine — just make sure you can borrow the new one occasionally to make sure the material matches up. (companies love to change the order of things so it looks like they made all sorts of important changes — even though they really didn’t).

College Book Saving Secret #6: Yourself. Ask yourself “Am I REALLY going to read this book again?” If you’re honest with yourself, 99% of the time the answer will be “no”. If the answer is “no”, sell your book as soon as you’re done with it. It will never be worth more than it is right then.

You can save a lot a money this way. Just as an example, I completed my entire Master’s degree without buying a single book…but don’t tell anybody, it’s a secret!