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July 18, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Textbook Buyer's Guide

By Jeff from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Fashionably Broke Blog Series

Any college student can tell you: Knowledge is costly. With fresh knowledge, each new class brings the cost of textbooks – of course this isn’t included in tuition. My freshmen year of school, I was surprised to find that textbooks for one semester could cost in excess of $300.

But the economic landscape of textbook commerce isn’t without hope. Over my college career, I’ve gleaned a few tips to help ease the pain that comes. Who knows, you might have some spare change left over for a matinee movie!

Buy Used

It’s time to enter the world of secondhand textbooks. Collegiate bookstores often sell used copies of textbooks along with new versions, but they aren’t the only ones; Amazon,, and other students will also be selling. Check any bulletin boards or school-sponsored classified ads for some deals.

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Also, you can try checking with your Prof. about an older edition of a selected book. They likely know the differences between the new one and the old, and they will know whether a previous edition will suit the purpose. But please, check to make sure you Prof. didn’t write the book before you ask.

Sell 'Em

Done with your books? Sell them off! You may want to save some of your books for reference, but think carefully about it. Unless a book is easy enough flip through and use as a practical reference, it may never get opened again. Don’t forget, the longer you hang onto it, the likelier a new edition will come out and make your book worth much, much less.

Shopping in the “Off-Season”

It may seem a little early to be thinking about textbooks for the fall in July, but it’s probably for the best. Have you taken Econ yet? It’s all about supply and demand. If you try to buy your books while everyone else is, there’s a higher demand for the books and sellers can afford to charge more than when fewer people are willing to buy. This is especially true online, where prices change much more fluidly than in a bookstore. I mean, when you know what classes you plan on taking all summer, you really don’t need to wait till the end of the summer to buy books, right?


The same is true with selling your books; if you sell earlier or later than everyone else, you can expect to charge more when there are less people willing to sell.


Your college bookstore and sites like Amazon will also offer you the option to rent a textbook. If you can’t find a used copy, this is a good option. Although you won’t be able to resell the book, you won’t pay full price for the book either.


It couldn't hurt to check your local library to see if they carry some, or all, of your textbooks, but it's unlikely every book will be available. Often times, they will have a copy on hand, and you may be able to avoid purchasing books they have in the first place. Of course, someone could check it out, so be mindful of that.

Sharing Time’s a Happy Time

If you have a friend or roommate that’s taking the same class, you could try sharing a book. But be mindful that your Prof. may require the text be brought to class or that your friend may have study habits that conflict with yours.

There! Now you're an informed textbook shopper. Don’t be deceived by the snares of overpriced knowledge. And don’t forget to compare prices!

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