On the first day of class when your teacher announces that there are two required textbooks, both of which are $100+, you can audibly hear a collective groan in the room.
Everyone is thinking the same thing: are you serious? Students simply don’t have a lot of extra money, and they certainly don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on a ridiculously expensive textbook.
Check out this list of tips to ensure you never pay full price (or potentially any money!) for a textbook again.
1. Read the Syllabus Closely
Before even thinking about buying a college textbook, read through your syllabus. First, look at the books that your professor requires you to buy, and then look at how many times you are assigned pages from that book. It’s very possible that there is only one week where you even need to use the book, or that throughout the course, you are only expected to have read a grand total of two or three chapters. If this is the case, you definitely shouldn’t purchase it full-price.
2. Use Amazon
Amazon is your best friend. They often have deals at the beginning of the school year where textbooks are further reduced from their normal already-discounted price. Plus, Amazon often offers free shipping! Beware: if you end up ordering a book from a different seller on Amazon, check the estimated delivery date as sometimes these books can take up to a month or more to be delivered!
3. Join Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are a great way to get in contact with students looking to sell old textbooks. Look for a textbook exchange or textbook swap Facebook group at your university. In addition, do a bit of digging. Search for a Facebook group for the specific class you’re taking, or even join a departmental/faculty group. For example, if you’re taking an introductory Psych course, join your university’s Psychology Students Association group on Facebook. Once you’re in, you can write a post about the books you’re looking for and even ask your fellow students for advice on finding cheap textbooks.
4. Check Classifieds
Similar to Facebook, check your university classifieds or the local classifieds of the town/city your university is in. Students advertise everywhere, and with a quick keyword search, you can narrow down your results quickly.
5. Ask Your Classmates
Whether you have friends in the class or not, ask your classmates where they are buying their textbooks from. If your class has an online course page, you can even send around an email to everyone on the class list.
6. Email Your Teaching Assistants
Not only is it good to get comfortable talking to your TAs, but your TAs have been students for several years, so they likely know a few tips and tricks that you don’t. Additionally, if they are assisting your course, there’s a chance they have taken the course themselves as an undergrad. Ask them what they recommend!
7. Talk to Your Professor
The same goes for your professor. First, it’s good to get comfortable talking to your professor. Second, if you have any questions about your textbooks, your professor is the best person to go to. Professors are often very sympathetic to their students and do not like assigning textbooks that cost $100+. Explain your situation to them and ask them questions such as whether the newest edition of the textbook is really necessary.
8. Use the Library!
I’ll let you in on a little secret – no one ever takes out library books in college! Seriously, every class you have likely has at least one copy of the textbook available for loan at the library, and yet no one takes it out! So if you really want to save money, I would suggest not buying any books, and just borrowing them from the library as you need them. The time restrictions can be a little annoying, but you can always photocopy or scan something that you need for a longer period of time.
9. Share A Book With A Friend
This one depends on two things: if you have a friend in your class, and how much you’re expected to use the book. If you happen to have a good friend in your class AND you don’t need to use the textbook too intensely, I would recommend going halfsies on your books. Split the cost and share the book.
BONUS: Sell Your Textbooks
This might not prevent you from paying full price for the textbook initially, but in the long run you’ll make (at least half of) your money back. If you don’t think you’ll need these books ever again, be sure to put them up for sale the following school year. Post them on Facebook groups and on classifieds, or you can even try selling them back to your university bookstore.
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!