Tips for buying college textbooks

Buying college textbooks can be expensive and a hassle if you don’t know what you’re doing or where to look.

Fortunately, technology today is a lifesaver when it comes to searching for assigned titles and getting them for a bargain. As a rule, start in your campus bookstore (the earlier, the better), which should be the easiest way to pick up what you need, and then work your way down the list if the book your school carries is out of stock or too expensive.

Your Own Campus Bookstore: First, go to your college’s bookstore web site to look up your courses and what textbooks are assigned to each. See if they’ve got an option for buying the used version of the book, which is usually cheaper yet still clean inside and undamaged.

Local Bookstores: If there are bookstores near your campus or around your neighborhood, call or go in yourself to search for your assigned textbooks. Oftentimes, the prices of textbooks in your campus bookstore are marked-up and can be found cheaper at other retailers, especially if they’re common novels or popular texts.

Amazon: amazon.com is popularly known for carrying textbooks at inexpensive prices. You can also join their Amazon Student membership program at no cost (at amazon.com/student) for perks like free two-day shipping for a year’s time and exclusive discounts and promotions via e-mail. All you need is an .edu address.

Barnes and Noble: Search for your book online and have it shipped to your home if the price is right or go in to the store at Union Square, which is the only Barnes and Noble in the area that carries textbooks.

Strand Bookstore: This is also a bookstore located near Union Square and it boasts carrying “18 miles of books.” Similar to B&N, you can search for your textbooks online (at strandbooks.com) and have it shipped out or call them to put it on hold and pick it up at the store.

Facebook Marketplace: The popular social networking site has an application called Marketplace with which students and others can use to buy or sell their goods and services. You can see which friends use the application, search for the books you specifically need, or post an advertisement for the books you want to sell at the beginning or end of the semester, similar to Craigslist.

Renting: Renting your textbooks for a semester, quarter, or 60-day time period is a great way to go green for the environment and save green in your pocket. With sites like chegg.com, you can search for your textbook through its title or ISBN, rent it for the time period you need, then ship it back so that another student can use it again in the future. If for some reason you need it longer than the time period specified, there is an option to extend the rental period for a small fee.

Fellow Students: Never underestimate the personal library that your fellow classmates, dorm mates, or friends have stashed away. Professors all around the country assign books that are common on many bookshelves, like Sigmund Freud’s Outline of Psycho-Analysis or Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, which you might just be able to borrow if you ask nicely or trade your own sought-after book for.

Flyers Around Campus: Work aggressively and early if you’re going to use the method of searching out your books through campus fliers. True, they often are being sold at cheap prices (because desperate students will take what they can get to make a buck) but thousands of other students are looking at that same flyer every time they pass it in the hallway too.

College or Local Libraries: Your college and community libraries have access to volumes upon volumes of free books, some of which you may be assigned to buy by your professor. Similar to using fliers, however, you must be the first student to check out the required book or it may be lent out to another smart student who scooped it up with their library card just before you did.


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