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Going into my senior year of college (wow typing that out made me feel old!), I feel like I've nailed how to get all my textbooks without spending a fortune. I remember back in freshman year naive little me bought every single book on my syllabus at the student bookstore and didn't think that there was really any other way to go about things. I've learned that although the bookstore is convenient, it is also probably the worst way to get your books as the prices are more than likely inflated than what you would find online. I decided to give you all the scoop on how I do things now after a few semesters of trial and error with buying books!
Find Out If You Really Need The Book
I know a professor who assigns books and then never mentions them in class. They aren't used on tests, essays, etc. Everything is based off of lecture. I'm convinced he only assigns the books because the school makes him. This is difficult to do if you're a first semester freshman, but if you've had a professor who never touches the assigned reading material, skip buying it. Again, the best tip here is having the professor for a previous class or asking a friend if the text is really necessary for a certain class. Not all books are necessary, so don't go wasting $50 on a textbook that will sit on your desk all semester gathering dust.
Google Books Should Be Your Best Friend
I only bought four books last semester. Five classes, each had at least two textbooks assigned (my thesis had eight by itself!) and I only had to buy four? That's thanks to my good friend Google Books. For the last year I've gotten my list of required texts together and typed each one into google and added "google books" to the search. Sometimes there are multiple links for the same book that pop up but you want the one that says "Preview this book." I've been lucky in the past where 75% if not all of the book was available for preview with my required book. I personally don't mind if a small amount of pages are missing from the preview, but if that's something you need just make sure all the pages are in the preview. I always double check my syllabus to see if it says exactly what the book will be used for in the class. If there's a chapter by chapter summary due every week, get the book. If you have to write an essay based on the book, you should be fine with the 75% content preview. Again, this is just my personal opinion!
Find Out If There's A PDF Option
In my cheapness, I've tried many things to get out of spending $75 for a 100 page book. One of these things is googling "Textbook Name Online PDF" sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. This is very helpful if I only need a specific chapter of a book that was assigned and don't want to waste money buying the whole book! Another way to find pdf versions of your textbook is searching in your library's online catalog. Sometimes you can find the whole book online for free!
Utilize Your Campus Library
Like the tip before, be sure to search through your school library's online catalog and double check that your required texts aren't available online for free. Even if they aren't, the library should have at least one copy of the necessary textbook available to rent out. There may only be a limited amount though, so be sure to get there as early as possible to grab that book! You can re-checkout the book throughout the semester, so no need to spend any money.
Borrow From a Friend
I was lucky that I took a class that my roommate had taken during a previous semester. She decided she wanted to keep the book for the class and allowed me to use it when I took it this semester. Ask around and see if your friends have taken your class and are still holding onto the textbook. They might let you borrow it if you ask nicely.
Can't get your book for free? Here are your next best options.
Amazon and Barnes and Noble have this option for a good amount of their inventory. You buy the book via Kindle option and essentially it shows up like a digital copy on your laptop. I don't own a kindle, so when I discovered this option I was a little concerned that it wasn't going to work for me, but it did! The prices for the Kindle version are much more discounted than buying the actual physical books, no you can't exactly take notes like a normal book, although the kindle book system does let you highlight passages you want in multiple colors!
Share With A Friend
Are you and a friend taking the same class? Why not share the book that you need to buy and save half the cost! You can decide to split readings by chapter and create a google doc for notes, take turns keeping the book at home, or one of you can photocopy what you need. Either way, it's a good way to save half of your cash.
Rent Your Textbook
Whether it be from your school's bookstore or a website like Amazon or Chegg, you can decide to rent instead of buy your book. You just have to remind yourself that your book is due at the end of the semester (or whenever the date may be). It's not the cheapest option out there, but it is cheaper than outright buying the book.
If you have to buy your textbook go for these cheaper options first!
Always go for the used textbooks instead of new books! Guaranteed they'll be at least a few dollars cheaper. Also, if you haven't signed up for Amazon Student, you're missing out!
Another good place to search for textbooks is on ebay or craigslist. People are constantly selling big name textbooks on these two sights, so keep your eyes open!
Campus Free and For Sale Page
I'm not sure if every school has one of these, but I do know of a few schools at least that have a Facebook page where students buy and sell various things. If you aren't sure if your school has one of these pages, just type it in your Facebook search bar, that's how I found mine! You can either wait for someone to post about the book you need, or make a post yourself with a list of books and ask if anyone is selling.
I know it's a little early for this post, but it's better to know these things ahead of time than after spending hundreds on textbooks. Happy purchasing!