How To Save Money On Textbooks

I read a lot of advice about how to save money on textbooks. People told me to buy used, and there were likely a lot of students offering their old books, and there were ways to buy used books. People told me to buy on Amazon or at Chapters, but I could not find my particular books at any online retailer or book store. Some people told me to not buy textbooks at all, that I could get by without them, but I had illusions of reading my textbooks every night and doing all assigned homework (didn’t work out as I planned). There are a lot of theories because every single person at every single school knows that textbooks gouge you and your wallet.

I thought I was pretty wise when I went to school and I thought I knew a way that nobody had considered before. I truly thought that I was going to be the best student a university could ask for so I knew I wanted to buy all the books. I bought one book off a friend who had it and I bought the rest of my books new. I would like to not have but what happened was three of my classes required an online code that could only be obtained from a freshly new book. Any used book you bought would not have a valid code so you would be forfeiting up to 10% of the course mark. So I got screwed over into buying new books no different from books half the price.

But even though I went through this I though I still figured out a way to lessen the price. I thought I could read the books but keep them in immaculate shape and would be able to recover a lot of the price when I could sell them back for more than anybody else. I didn’t highlight one thing, I tried not to take them anywhere. But over Christmas I thought I would get ahead by studying a little extra. Simply putting my biology book in my backpack and hauling it home managed to scratch it more than I was happy with. The books are all in good shape still but I do not know what I will be able to get for them.

The Plan

Now I have told you everything I did wrong. But I do think I know a decent way to manage the price. Buy used. If the book is the same as the year before then buy it from a student a year older (you will find plenty). In Canada it is illegal to make marks exclusively available through buying a new book so you will be able to complain to the professor or administrators that you are not required to buy a new book to get a percentage of your mark. In some classes the deal was a harder assignment was weighted heavier if you did not have the online code. The online assignments the code was for were incredibly easy so you need to weigh the price of the new book over the marks it may entitle you to. But there legally has to be an alternative to marks from buying a new textbook.

Ask people from your high school where they are going. Maybe there is somebody going to your school who will be taking the courses you did, or even in your program. I was lucky to have a friend in a science program who could have sold me three books if I hadn’t needed to of them new. If you can’t find one from your old school start advertising your book early, even just after your exams finish. Post something on Kijiji or Craigslist, put up flyers at the school. Do something.You can always sell your books back to the bookstore but they will almost never give you the best offer.

Also consider sharing a book if your roommate or somebody on your floor or in your residence if you trust them. This cuts the price in half, and also gives you a study partner which will come in handy. I did not live with anybody in my program so I couldn’t try this but I think it could save a lot of money and not many people consider it. This would work especially well in second year and up if you know you will be living with somebody in your classes.

For lots of classes you can buy the older editions with no ramifications. I used a sixth edition calculus book when the rest of the class used the seventh and I managed to pass the course. Calculus hasn’t changed in thousands of years. The books get revised as a money grab. Books like math, history, music, maybe chemistry,  maybe geology, won’t change a lot in a year so older editions of the same book company should be okay. It would be good to ask your professor if this would work.

Do not highlight the book or mark it in any way. I would leave bookmarks to mark important pages and I have also seen coloured sticky notes. Different colours for dates, definitions, etc. People say highlighting helps the next person but really it is just colouring in a book. If you cover a car with graffiti you will not be able to sell it for the same price even if the graffiti is inspirational or artistic. Mark important places in the book in a way that you can remove before selling it.

And try to read the book once in a while. I found that the textbook always helped my understanding. My studying usually consisted of going through my notes and reading all the chapters on the test the day before the test. While books are expensive they do have a help.

In the end I think that my method of buying books turned out alright. I am going to try my new methods next year and logically they should work better. Knowing that textbooks are expensive is half the battle. Think of your own way to save money on them and you should be fine.


How To Save Money On Textbooks — 7 Comments

  1. When I was in school I used to despise when they came out with a “new edition” of a textbook, so they said you couldn’t buy an old one. 99% of the time the new edition was the same as the old edition. Maybe there were a couple changes, like different pictures, but the pages and everything else were the same.

    • It is the worst. A poorly disguised money grab. I bought an old edition of a calculus textbook, but assigned problems were all for the new one. It doesn’t hurt the professors any, I have also heard they get rewarded for new textbooks sold. This just means there is no incentive for anybody to save money with the old books.

  2. Wow textbooks are a total rip-off! Obviously this online code thing is a response to students buying used, but I would raise complete hell if they tried to force me to buy the book new. You can look to ebay and abe book type sites for international editions.

    For math and engineering, I bought all my books as international editions from these types of sites and saved a ton of money

    • I am going to explore and see if I can’t find some alternate sources of books online. I checked Amazon and Chapters before and when they didn’t I stopped. There must be some obscure companies who can be of help if you dig around a little.

  3. Great ideas! My boyfriend and I are taking a class together this summer just for the savings. A little inconvenient in terms of studying, but being broke unfortunately comes with several… *ahem*… inconveniences, big or small. On an unrelated note, I am falling in love with your blog! Would you mind if I shared your blog on my own?

    • These are the ideas I am trying. I am not living with anybody in my program otherwise I would love to split costs as you are.

      I am kind of fond of my blog as well, and it looks like I am going to enjoy yours based on your first post. I would be glad to have my blog shared on yours.

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