Monday, March 26, 2012

Textbooks for Even Less

Last year, I posted about shopping around for cheap textbooks. With more experience at college, however, I've found new ways of getting your books on the cheap. Presenting: How to Purchase College Textbooks for Even Less, in four easy steps.

1. You might not need them
Professors have the nasty habit of putting books on the "required" list, and then never requiring them. Even though it might set you back a week to order textbooks late, consider holding off on your more expensive (or more questionable) purchases until you've gone to the first class and spoken to the professor. Alternatively, try and get a hold of a student who's taken the class; they may know what you need. Tufts Facebook groups are a great place to start reaching out to those upper-classmen.

2. Libraries are free
Tisch ILLiad and other library loan services can get you free books for roughly half of the semester, absolutely free. If you only need a book for a few weeks on the syllabus, or if you can manage to take it out a second time later in the year, this is a great way to get your books for free.

I grabbed three of mine like this for this year, borrowing from Smith College Libraries in Northampton Massachusetts, Wellesley College,  and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries. Amusingly, the MIT kids had left pictures and notes in page 42. Coincidence? I think not.

3. Go digital
Beyond libraries, check around on the web. Many books for literature courses, for example, are out of copyright; I was able to get the free download of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Notes from Underground, for example. Expand your reading options with the free Kindle reader for computers, and you should be able to find what you need.

There may also be eBook versions of your regular texts available for lower prices, even if they're not free.

4. When you're done with it, sell it
As Geoff recommended on my BookSwap post from last May, selling on is the way to go. You ship cheaply with United States Postal Service (USPS) Media Mail (discounted for items like books!), and plenty of textbooks go quickly. The company is partnered with eBay, and setup is pretty quick and easy. I've already gotten rid of seven of my purchases this way, and I'm sure I'll send more books to university students at the end of this year. You certainly don't want to sell back to the Tufts Bookstore; it's a guaranteed rip-off.

There you have it: tips on keeping your textbook expenses low. Now that you can afford those large piles of books, all you have to do is try reading them.

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