Textbooks will do serious violence to your budget if you don’t plan ahead. Follow these easy tips and you’ll save yourself from the most easily-preventable first-year expense.
Don’t buy from the bookstore… ever
The only thing the University bookstore offers is the dual indignity of high prices and long lines during fall move-in. The only thing you should ever use this seething den of price-gouging horror for is to look up what textbooks you need.
By law, the University must now post textbooks before classes begin in the fall. These lists can be found on the bookstore website. Copy the ISBN nine-digit code onto a document and use it to search other bookstores.You can also find a link to each class’s textbook list on its MyAccess Schedule of Courses page.
If no books are posted, check to see if there’s a class syllabus on Blackboard. Sometimes professors don’t even use textbooks, preferring instead to post articles in PDF form on Blackboard. If that fails, look up the professor’s name in the directory and send them a polite e-mail asking for the book list. They will understand your pain (they were students once).
Using these two sources, you will save 50-75 percent on bookstore prices. I find AbeBooks has a slightly better selection of editions and ages, while Amazon offers a year of free shipping for students using their .edu e-mail address. In any case, both have book buyback that far exceeds the pauper rates the bookstore gives.
Buy old editions and international prints if you can
Publishers slightly modify books almost every year, often by just jumbling around the chapters or adding a half-paragraph of new information (see: planned obsolescence, evils of capitalism). This tactic allows them to coerce students to buy new books instead of cheaper used texts.
Don’t fall for their ploy; it’s usually fine to by textbooks up to two editions out of date. You should check with your professor, though.
Also, don’t be afraid to buy international editions. I once bought an international trade book from the U.K. for $15 where the same edition in the U.S. was listed for $60. It’s only illegal to sell international editions in the U.S., not to buy them.
Renting is sometimes a viable option
I never rent because I wear out my books pretty easily. But people that keep their books in pristine condition might want to take advantage of . Some sites include Chegg, Valore, Campus Book Rentals, and Bookbyte. CourseSmart for PDF’s to use on your computer or e-reader.
The bookstore also offers a rental service, but you probably don’t want to be held liable if you lose even one of the CD’s in a bundle or happen to use your highlighter on a book. Also, just say “no” to renting iClickers, you can buy them used for as low as $10 on Amazon or eBay and you will use them again if you’re a science, business, or economics major.
Use the library for novels and old textbooks
Especially with English classes, buying novels is like death by a thousand cuts for your wallet. You can often find what you need at the Georgetown Library or D.C. Public Library (there’s a location near Wisconsin Avenue and Reservoir Road). Professors will sometimes even place a reserve on books at the library so their students can have exclusive access to the books, usually for a couple hours.
Also, when you search the catalog at the in the top right-hand corner, be sure to search “GU and Consortium.” That will return searches from any university library in D.C. The people at Lau will gladly ship off-premises books right to the library.
Photo by wohnai.