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Written by Lily August 31, 2011
Gone are the days of high school, when your parents’ tax money got you a textbook to use for the year at no cost to yourself. Nope, fork over the $200 for this one book you’ll never use again! Please. Read on to avoid overspending on books.Personally, I think the whole system by which universities and publishing companies make millions off of students every year on textbooks is just…dirty. I won’t even get into the details, but suffice it to say–if you’re not smart about the way you buy books, you risk losing thousands and thousands over four years of college that for the most part you probably won’t get back. So from beginning to end, here is my book-buying guide for lots of saved dollars.
(1) Figure out which books you need.
The first stop here is the Barnes and Noble Ohio State website. Here you can put in the term, class, and section (all this can be found on your class schedule at My Student Center via BuckeyeLink) of all of your courses and get a full textbook list. It’s not always accurate, but it’s a good place to start. From here, I would confirm that these are the right books by emailing your professor; sometimes, it’s also helpful to ask the professor if you’re required to have the most recent version of the textbook in question, since older versions are usually significantly less expensive.
(2) First try the library
Books checked out from the OSU library can stay with you for the duration of the quarter provided no one else requests them, so use the catalog at the library website first. If you can’t find a book there, the next stop is Ohio Link, the system that connects all Ohio libraries. OLinks books can’t be kept out for as long, so if you need to use it you might be better off just buying or renting the book.
(3) See if a friend has taken the class before.
Buying, or even borrowing, from a friend, is usually less expensive than getting the book from a website or bookstore because there’s literally no overhead. Meet up somewhere and exchange books for cash. If you’re looking to get rid of an old book, you’ll get the most money back if you sell this way too. A more indirect way of doing this is via Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, but I haven’t had too much luck with either website.
(4) Usually, websites are cheaper than bookstores.
My top three go-to textbook buying sites are Half.com, Half Price Books Marketplace, and good ol’ Amazon. In my experience, these websites will almost always get you a better deal than any of the bookstores near campus, though there are occasionally exceptions. Search for the book on all three and compare prices before you buy. Take into consideration shipping and the condition the book is in!
(5) If you shop at a bookstore, shop around.
‘Nuff said. Know that bookstores generally don’t give prices on the phone–you have to go visit. The most popular bookstores near campus are Barnes & Noble, SBX, and UBX. Students will disagree on which has the lowest prices, and it really does vary book to book so make sure to compare before you buy!
I’m personally not a big fan of renting because I’d like to have something to show for my money when the term is over–especially since renting is generally not that much cheaper than buying used books (and needless to say, ALWAYS BUY USED!) so I don’t know as much about textbook rentals. Research for yourself and decide what’s best for you!
Hope you find this guide helpful–happy shopping!
Great guide Lily! I personally like to go to half.ebay.com and search for older edition books. During Spring Quarter I would have spent around $500 for all of my books brand new. I got all old edition books though for class and spent exactly $17.62 for four classes. Professors look down on this for the most part, but I’m a poor college student and it hasn’t made my grades suffer as of yet. If I find that later in the quarter I REALLY need newer editions, I haven’t wasted much money.
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