Step 1: Don't Buy From the Bookstore
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify the book you will need. This can be done by finding the ISBN number. With this number you can look up your book almost anywhere. The first place you might want to look is on Amazon. From here you can shop around and compare prices. Check Ebay, and do a Google search for other online stores. You’ll quickly find that your book will be offered from these online retailers at a significantly lower price than your school does.
If you’re school doesn’t provide the ISBN number (sneaky sneaky) they’ve caught on to the game and are attempting to curve the dissenters. Not to worry, they no doubt provide the title of the text and hopefully the author and even better the cover image. If you’re looking up your books online and you still can’t find any of these things you may need to go to the school itself to get this information. Once you have found a little information on your textbooks you can then do some research on the internet. Amazon is a great resource for identifying your required textbooks. Once found you can then begin your shopping around.
Step 2: Search for the Instructors Edition
You can save hundreds of dollars by searching for your textbooks online, but you can save even more by doing a little research. There may be alternative versions of your textbooks that sell for a mere couple of dollars as I have found. Alternative texts you say, will these work for my class? Yes, they will.
The first thing you might want to search for is the “Instructors Edition” of your textbook. This version will have all the same content plus some. So why do these versions often come cheaper than their “student” versions. I really have no idea, maybe because no one is searching for them. Note you will not be searching for these by the ISBN number since they will have different numbers than your required textbook. Instead you will be going by the title, version, and author of your textbooks. Some research is required here so make sure you have the right book before you purchase.
Step 3: Try the The International Version
Another alternative version that can come very cheap is the international version that’s “not to be sold or purchased in North America and contains content that is different from its North American version.” Again some research is to be done here, but in all my experience the only content that is different is the cover. Seriously, word for word and page for page the international version is the same as its North American insanely priced version. Just ignore the deterring advisory posted on the front cover.
Step 4: Look for Prior Editions
Step 5: Buy Used
In any case, whether you buy from the bookstore, or elsewhere you'll do best buying your books used. There have been cases where I've seen newer books selling for nearly the same price as a used book. In these cases I've gone ahead and just bought the new one.