I hate paying for textbooks. During my first semester of university I, stupidly, purchased all of my books from the school bookstore for over $500. By my last year in Graduate School, my bill was down to roughly $10 a semester. The major you choose does impact your textbook bill (Sorry Engineering Majors. It’ll pay off in the long run!). However, the following tips should, at the very least, help shave a few dollars off your textbook bill.
1) Check if the library has a copy of the book.
If you’re lucky there will be a copy of your textbook sitting on the library’s shelf just waiting for you to check it out. However, some university libraries will hold books behind the front desk and only allow for temporary checkouts usually between 2-24 hours. Remember to check for the book at both your university library and the local public library.
2) Borrow the book from another library via Interlibrary Loan (ILL).
If your library does not have the book your librarian may be able to order a copy from a different library. Most universities waive ILL fees as they are paid for by your Student Fees. If you go through a public library you may have to pay a small fee for shipping. Here at LCLS, for example, we charge $2/ILL.
3) Look for a digital version of the text.
If you’re studying older literature that has entered the public domain, you may be able to find a copy of the text. The Public Domain Review has a great guide on how & where to find media (books, movies, images, & more) in the public domain. Two of my personal favorite sites are the Internet Archive & the Digital Public Library of America. Some of these older titles are also freely available on Youtube and Spotify as audiobooks as well.
Finally, searching for a book, chapter, or short story title followed by .PDF on Google will occasionally connect you with the text you need.
4) Give Up & Buy/Rent the Textbook
Sadly, not every book is available for free. If you do end up having to purchase your books, make sure to compare prices.
My favorite site for doing this is BigWords. Simply pop in a title or ISBN and BigWords will search multiple textbooks websites to find you the best price. Bonus, the site also checks for any coupons you may qualify for.
You may also want to check your local Craigslist or your university’s “Buy/Sell/Trade” Facebook page to see if any of your fellow classmates are selling textbooks they no longer need.
If I’ve done my job correctly today, you now have a few extra dollars to splurge on Sapporo Ichiban Ramen instead of the basic Maruchan. 🙂