Before I dive into my post, I'd like to give a shout out of thanks to my followers! To everyone preparing to tackle college for the first (or second, third, fourth, etc...) time, exams or just life itself - good luck!
So, my last post dealt with selecting courses, & my long, drawn out guide probably scared at least a few people off the process altogether! Now, I'll try my hand at explaining how I go about buying textbooks!
What you need to know before you even attempt this - you should have your classes 99% nailed down*. This is common sense, but you don't want to overburden yourself by shopping for a dozen different courses, much less actually buy books for a class you won't take.
*Note - I say 99%, because there is always the chance you will end up dropping a course, or the course may (sacrifice a lamb in the hopes it won't happen) be canceled.
Once you have your course list, you're going to obtain a list of course materials. Now, this isn't limited to just textbooks. In case you're new to college, you might be required to buy other things as well - for example, a chemistry course will likely ask students to buy their own safety goggles & smock, an art class a portfolio & paints. I won't be discussing these, because some things you must buy new (paints), others you may prefer to buy new (goggles), while some can be found used at your school's bookstore. Your professor will be able to steer you in the proper direction, & you should ask if you're unsure - look for their email in your college's directory located in your catalog.
To get your course materials list, check your college's website & see if they have a site for the bookstore/supplies store. Usually, you can enter your classes in some fashion & get a list. If your school doesn't offer this handy feature, check the catalog for the stores' hours, & call to see if the course lists are available yet. Once you get your list, double check it has these five things
- The ISBN - find it by the barcode of any book.
- The title of the book - usually the ISBN will find it, but in some rare cases, the title is better.
- The edition - some professors are flexible on using an older edition, some are staunchly against you saving money.
- What the book looks like. Rarely, the ISBN & title will be wonky, & you're just not sure if the book you're about to buy is the right one. If it looks like it, it probably is it though!
- Your book store's new & used prices - if they have the cheapest price after all your shopping, well, at least its easy to just buy it from them!
An easy way to get people to sell your books to you, instead of the bookstore (which is what 90% of students do out of laziness) is offer a set price above the bookstore's buyback price. A lot of students go to trade in their books & basically get laughed at because it has some minor damage, highlighting, has just been trumped by a new edition, whatever. The books the bookstore finally offers to buy back are so absurdly underpriced compared to the price they'll sell them at pisses students off, so they'll probably deal with the hassle of meeting someone just to flip the bookstore a figurative bird.
While you're posting your flyers, check others' out - don't only look for textbooks matching the ones you need this semester, but also check for book swaps, off-campus bookstores offering textbooks, & other random goodies. I've scored many an awesome piece of furniture & a like-new bike for cheap from college bulletin boards.
Craigslist is another great place to post up your textbook list. Also check your college's website for a forum where you can post book swap requests. Remember to try & include pictures of the books you want, to avoid mistakes.
If, after two weeks or so, or however long decide to wait, you don't get all your textbooks, I suggest checking online sources. To save the most money when shopping online, make sure you have at least a few weeks before classes begin, so you won't be forced to shell out extra money for faster shipping. Many sites offer free shipping when you spend so much, so its also best to buy all of them from one website, unless the savings differ greatly enough to invalidate the shipping. My favorite site for buying used books is Half.com, followed byCollegebookrenter.com.
Using a combination of these methods, I usually spent around 1/5 of what my used bookstore charges for used books - I average around $150 for four or five classes.
Once again, hope this post is a little help for anyone trying to find a good deal on college textbooks! Let me know if you have any favorite methods or sites for shopping for textbooks! Good luck!