How to Purchase College Textbooks (for Less)
1. Find out what you need in advance.
Don't wait until classes begin to get your books, or else you're stuck getting them from the bookstore at the last minute for ridiculous prices. To get the list early, try:
(a) The bookstore's website. They'll tell you what books you need; write down titles, editions, or ISBNs. You don't need to buy from them.
(b) http://getchabooks.com/ A non-profit website started by Tufts University and Brad College. It supports book listings for a dozen or so schools, including BU and Georgia Tech, and the list is growing.
UPDATE (21 Dec. 2010): Ricky Mondello of GetchaBooks and Tufts University informs me that the website is not actually a non-profit service; although it won't cost users anything extra, the retailers do give referral commissions to GetchaBooks. I'm just impressed he found this post.
(c) Last Semester. Ask upperclassmen, find a syllabus online from the last semester, or talk to professors; they'll know from last time what you'll need.
2. Compare prices.
Getchabooks has built-in price comparison between a few competitors, but go further. Consider buying your book used (cheaper, rarely contains problematic markings) or renting your textbook (reduced price, you must return the book at the end of the semester; works best if you will not need the book again). Great places to find your books cheap are:
Buy (New and/or Used)
If you do buy from the bookstore, double check; chances are, they're a Barnes & Noble company, and likely take all those gift cards you've accumulated. That's no reason to pay higher prices at the bookstore, though. B&N cards don't expire; you have 8 semesters to use them. Only buy from the bookstore when they have the best price.
If you've never rented books before, don't worry; it's easy. Simply be aware of the date that the book is due back. Then, before that date, use the box they gave you and their pre-paid shipping label that they email you to send it back vis UPS. I find that Chegg tends to want books back before BookRenter; if you're concerned that you'll need your textbook through finals, mind the dates of finals and the dates due back.
3. Sell back.
For books you didn't rent, you're going to want to turn them back into cash once your done. Your bookstore will likely buy them from you, but the price may not be so great. Consider:
- Selling to classmates who will be talking those classes (your school may even have a system for this, Tufts does)
- Selling to the bookstore
- Selling to Amazon's Textbook Buy-Back
- Sell via Amazon
- Sell via eBay
The downside to selling online is that you'll need to ship the books, but anything's worth it if you can get some or most of the book's cost back in cash.
There you have it. Happy shopping!