Introduction: How to Buy Textbooks on the Cheap

So you have your course schedule and now need to purchase supplies including those insanely expensive textbooks. What to do? Do you really want to spend $300 dollars for that Chemistry book? The school bookstore will no doubt offer all of the required texts on your list, but do you really want to fork over hundreds of dollars for a few books? Well you’re in luck, the school bookstore offers used textbooks for a cheaper price, but is this really you’re only choice to save some money? When it comes to getting your textbooks this semester there are a few options at your disposal that allow you to come away with a few hundred dollars left in your pocket. By utilizing the methods in this ible it is likely you could save somewhere in the thousands of dollars on school books alone during your four (or more) years in college education.  And if you're entered into the back to school contest, it's likely you will save enough money this semester alone to purchase the grand prize for this contest!

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

I wouldn’t exactly recommend this next idea; however I have done it and it has saved me quite a bit of money. Textbooks seem to change every few years for one reason or another. A newer version or edition will replace the “outdated” version. What usually happens here is the publisher is correcting errors in the text and nothing more. This isn’t always the case so utilizing this method is a gamble unless you do sufficient research. If you’re able or willing to, you can find earlier editions of your textbooks for just a few dollars used on Amazon or elsewhere. When compared to a hundred or a couple hundred of dollars this is huge.

Step 5: Buy Used

If you don’t want to go elsewhere for your books you can still save a little money by buying used books from your school and selling them back at the end of the semester. I’m not a fan of this because I like the way they look on my bookshelf. Not really. If you want to sell your books back to the school you have to be careful with your books. No notes in the margins, no highlighting, no marking up of any kind. This is a hard rule to follow for me, I love marking up my books. Another reason this might not work for you is you may actually want to keep those books for future reference later. I can’t see any aspiring engineer giving up their math and physics books. That said feel free to trash your philosophy book when you’re done. I don’t suppose even your school wants these back (just kidding).

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.

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