4 Tips for Buying Used Textbooks

By Alicia Geigel on January 8, 2019

Upon walking into a new class for the first time, there are a few expectations that you anticipate: new friends, new curriculum, and the dreaded new textbooks. For many students (myself included), reading over the book list for the semester can be discouraging, as the prices for textbooks are astronomically high and typically out of budget.

Despite this, most college students feel that they do not have a choice and in many cases, end up spending large amounts of money on textbooks that they may or may not need for a few short months. Students are straying away from this necessary evil, however. According to Libby Nelson of Vox, College Board estimates that students will budget $1,200 per year for books and supplies. Despite this, Nelson notes that student spending is not increasing at the same rate as pricing. Rather, a majority of students spend on average $638 per year on course materials, nearly half the College Board estimate.

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With the spring semester quickly approaching, I’m sure you are scrambling and struggling to figure out what to do when it comes to your course textbooks. In some cases, it may just be easier to purchase a physical copy of a book from your school bookstore, but don’t do this without looking at used textbook options first. Are you a college student currently on break and about to start school in a couple weeks? Having a hard time affording the necessary textbooks for class? Not sure if used textbooks are the way to go? Check these four simple tips on buying used textbooks below!

1. Hit the Bookstore ASAP: When we first get our syllabus, there is usually a list of course materials needed for the semester, like which books will be used. Some of us like to wait until after syllabus week to snag a copy of the course textbook, but if you’re looking to get a used copy, that isn’t the way to go. Instead, get to the bookstore as soon as possible to ensure that you can get your hands on a used copy of the book. If not, other students will get the book before you, leaving you with fewer options on saving money.

2. Take Note of ISBN Numbers: Professors usually will include the ISBN number of the book you will need for the course in the syllabus, and it’s not just by accident. ISBN Numbers are the way you can identify your book as well as compare prices from multiple sources and markets online. Once you get the syllabus or pop-in your campus bookstore, make note of the ISBN numbers for the new and used copies of your required course books. After that, use that to effectively compare prices online. Laura T. of Today writes, “Check prices on the Web sites of Amazon.comBarnes & NobleeBayefollet.com and CengageBrain.com. To save time, comparison shopping sites such as book.ly or SwoopThat can be incredibly helpful.”

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3. Don’t Forget the Library: In a growing age of technology, we may look at libraries as archaic places but libraries are so incredibly useful for so many reasons, especially when it comes to course textbooks! Robert Berger of US News notes, “While your school library may not have a copy of every single textbook, it’s likely to have copies of some of them – especially fiction and non-fiction books for liberal arts classes. “ At the beginning of the semester, professors will typically have the campus library set aside copies of books for students to use for free. Take advantage of your library, because you can borrow the book for as long as you need, for no additional cost to you!

4. Check Online: Listen, I am a firm believer in the power of the internet. You can find just about anything you want and more on the internet. You’re probably pondering sarcastically, “no, really Alicia?” Yes, really. I stated earlier that renting textbooks has been my saving grace throughout college, but what I have failed to mention (which I am addressing now) is that full and free PDFs of textbooks online have been an even bigger saving grace for me. Number one, you just found your entire required textbook online for free! I mean how can you beat that? For this, just Google search your textbook name with its author and edition and “PDF” next to it to open up a whole new wonderful world for you!

Though shopping for college textbooks can be overwhelming, choosing used textbooks when buying can make the whole process a lot easier. And if you’re really tight on money, there are always options like borrowing from the library or searching for a copy online. Remember to be smart about your shopping and don’t be afraid to check different sources if you can! As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | photographer | food blogger if you want to learn more about me, visit my profile and check out my articles!

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