Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Lesson V: Buying Textbooks

At the time of this entry, most colleges/universities will be starting the spring semester of 2007 in a few weeks. With the start of any new semester means the joy of buying severely overpriced textbooks. Even students who are starting their first semester will know these two basic facts about buying textbooks:

A. Textbooks are likely be one of the most expensive purchases you will have to make every semester.
B. If you can, be sure to buy used textbooks.

Unless you have money falling out of your pockets and can afford to buy all brand new textbooks straight from of the campus bookstore, then you will probably be looking to find the best deal you can. But there can be a lot more to finding a good price then you might think (just ask a grad. student in the medical field.) Being that were living in the age of technology with the Internet at most students’ fingertips, taking the time to search can make the difference between spending a small fortune on books and… well not spending a fortune on books. I’ve come up with a list of some tips on finding the best deal on textbooks both online and offline.

1. Buying books before or after the first class.
The question of whether you should buy your textbooks before or after the first class is an age-old one. You will always have the students who buy their textbooks as soon as the list comes out. They will defend their decision by saying that they are able to get what remains of the used textbooks from the campus bookstore before they run out and that on the first day of class they will not have to worry about not having a book. Then you have your students who will not even step into the bookstore until after the first class. They will defend their decision by saying that they save money because some professors will change which book they want their students to use or other professors will say that students do not need a book at all. Up until this point I always had my textbooks before I came to the first class but I’ve decided to take my chances and wait until the first class before I get my textbooks (in desperate hope that some professors will say I don’t need any textbook at all.) Both choices have their upsides; the only way you can choose which is right for you is a matter of trial and error (all apart of the college experience.)

2. If you have financial aid then use it!
At some colleges financial aid that you receive (whether it comes from the school or sent to the school on your behalf) your school may tell you that in order to receive any form of compensation for your textbook expenses you must purchase your textbooks from the campus bookstore. In situations like that, you should use your financial aid and do your best to find as many used textbooks from the campus bookstore as you can. Financial aid may have deadlines and other stipulations so buying your textbooks as soon as possible is usually recommended.

3. Buy used books.
Always check your campus bookstore to see if there are any used editions of the books your looking for, but you can also find out if at your school any students are running a book exchange (although many book exchanges businesses that are started don’t end up lasting long) its worth it as a consumer to check it out. You could also try talking to one of the students who took the course your going to be taking last semester and see if one of them is willing to sell their old book to you. Chances are they will be willing to get rid of it and you will be paying them more than the bookstore sellback rate so it's a win-win situation. If you cannot find any used books offline in your area then my next suggestion would be to check online.

4. Search online for books.
If you go to Yahoo and type in “college textbooks” or “new and used textbooks” or countless other keywords to search for cheap textbooks you will find literally millions of hits. I have taken the time to sort through some of the links I have seen and been told about by other students. I have selected five of the “major” online new and used textbook sellers and performed a search of ten textbooks for their availability and pricing at each website and here’s what I’ve found.

Amazon -- Amazon not only had every book that I searched for but for the most part it had the lowest prices and most used books available. I would give it a 5/5 because of the availability and pricing.
Barns & Noble -- Barnes and Noble had most of the books I searched for and the prices were in the middle range (if you are a member you will receive huge savings) but it also had very few used books. I give this a 3/5 because of the limited used books and the midrange prices.
eCampus -- eCampus had all of the books I searched for and was second in prices to Amazon but had fewer used books then Amazon. In would give it a 4/5 only because it didn’t have as many used books as Amazon.
PhatCampus -- PhatCampus had only a few of the books I searched for but the prices weren’t too bad, however I only noticed that the books I searched for were in used condition. I would give it a 2/5 because it lacked the books I searched for and were only available used. -- had some of the books I searched for and some of the prices were comparable to eCampus and Amazon but was also limited on the number of used books. I give this a 3/5 because it only had some of the books I was searching for and not a lot of used textbooks.

Keep in mind I only searched for ten books and that is by no means a perfect sample but it gives you a little idea of what’s out there. I would still suggest that you do multiple searches at different places in order to find the best deal on the specific books your looking for.

Best of luck with your textbook hunting! Please leave a comment if any of my tips have helped you or if you have any other new/used textbook seller websites that you have found any success with.


David said...

Great blog. I used some of your recomendations to buy textbooks so thank you! I also lucked upon a new company that buys textbooks at amazing prices. They accepted more of my books for more money than ecampus or valore. Check them out

David R.

Corie said...

Useful advice!! Phat Campus is best for buying and selling text books...

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