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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Textbooks - hunting the rare & elusive beasts

I was going to title this 'Textbooks - god, I f**** hate textbooks', but that sounded a little bitter & unhelpful. So I came up with this stupid title.

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!
Our first step is going to be to make a few flyers advertising that you're buying textbooks. Keep them basic, include your first name, phone number and/or email, and the info listed above. Post them around campus - near the bookstore, in student lounges & by the cafeteria are good places. Be sure you're allowed to post flyers beforehand, or you're just wasting your time.

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!

31 comments:

  1. I took a year off University where I pretty much had to lug around 10 textbooks with me. Was such a pain in the butt (and the back!)

    That's one part I'm not looking forward to when I go back!

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  2. Great tips! thanks for sharing

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  3. good article, continues the good work

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  4. Thanks for sharing, this is going to be helpful

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  5. You actually get lucky when bookshops buy your books back. What I usually get is "Oh hey, that $60 900-page book you bought 6 months ago is now outdated because version 14 came out last month! bad luck haha!"

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  6. good point. text books are an often overlooked cost of tertiary study

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  7. Hopefully you find the textbooks you need.

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  8. there are some errors in my textbooks lol

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  9. Thanks for sharing, but I've also always had majority of my courses say "This is the last semester this school will be using your version of this text book."

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  10. yeah,i have the same problem, new version ruin everything!

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  11. I remember school, actually, when I had lost three bags to the sheer weight of all the textbooks and stuff that I had, haha.

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  12. Nice entry :) fell free to step by my blog

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  13. *subscribed*
    I remember buying textbooks used when I took a semester. I ended up dropping all of my classes. I guess it just wasnt the right time for me lol. They would buy them back at the school for like real cheap and turn around and double the damn price. Aweful! lol

    come check my blog out and follow me? nice meeting you.

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  14. Oh yeah, this definitely works!

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  15. should be good when i go to college

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  16. Some excellent advice here. I remember my college days and the money I spent on books. I still have some of them - I came to be attachhed to them after so many hours of studying.

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  17. boy im still in highschool and the books are free . now ima have to save up for books too... another thing added to the list i guess

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  18. Very clever, useful tips indeed.

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  19. Awesome read! That's for the information :)

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  20. Nice post. abebooks.com helped me out when searching for textbooks.

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  21. this reminds me of my college days

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  22. Excellent blog! Enjoyed reading it, keep them posts coming =)

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  23. What really hate is when you buy a 60€ - 100€ textbook and it will only be helpfull in one semester. Happened twice to me. FML.

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  24. one day, we will get all of our text books in electronics form..the best part is that it will cost the same as it is now..

    except that a handful of people will be able to get illegal copies ;p

    I have followed your blog..Could you follow mine too please?

    Sky Stock Analysis

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  25. They should make Text books in digital form or something it would make it alot cheaper to buy and they wouldn't be old with pages missing and sticking together ect.. lol

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  26. Yeah I undestand "Only in Americe", here where I live if you try to sell books you will never get normal price for it so it's better to keep it for yourself even if you're not going to get another peek into it ever..

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  27. When I had to buy a bunch of books for my English class I just used Amazon, most books were extremely cheap and it was quite a deal. I used Chegg.com for my textbooks this year and it was only like 5 dollars, I have to send it back pretty soon though.

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