Prefrosh Preview: Buying your textbooks

As a college student, you’ll easily find yourself cash-strapped in pretty much every living moment. One way to try and preserve the dwindling balance in your checking account is to consider how you’re getting the textbooks you need for each class. Vox is here to explain some of your best, cheapest options.

Buying from the Georgetown University Bookstore

With long lines, unbelievable prices, and a dismal book buyback scheme, the Leavey Center bookstore is the place where the textbook industry exacts the highway robbery on you and your wallet in fluorescent, air-conditioned comfort.

Use the bookstore only to look up what textbooks you need for each class. The University provides this information under the Student Schedule section of MyAccess in compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act. If the textbook lists aren’t available yet, see if there’s a syllabus posted on Blackboard or the University Registrar’s website. You could also email your professor politely asking for a list of books needed.

The bookstore also allows you to rent some textbooks, new or used, at a substantially lower cost, and says that you can “highlight and take notes” on your rented copies. A store clerk will ask for a form of identification when you check-out your books, but your GOCard will suffice. Make sure you remember to return your books on the top floor of the bookstore at the end of the semester or you’ll be hit with a fee.

Buying from Amazon and other bookstores

Don’t forget to register for six months of free shipping from Amazon with your new, shiny .edu email address from Georgetown. Take the time to vigorously compare prices across online stores. In any case, you’ll get a considerable discount on books compared to the bookstore. Don’t be afraid to purchased used copies online to get even deeper savings.

For some of you, going to the bookstore may be a matter of convenience because you want your textbooks with you today. If you’re worried about getting your books for your classes on time, check with your professor to see when the textbooks will be pertinent to your class. For most classes, syllabus week is an absolute joke and the real work won’t start until the second week of classes, which should give you enough time to have the books shipped to you.

Borrowing from libraries or viewing texts online

Why spend money at all on texts that your professor will only explain for a couple of hours in the whole semester? There’s a high chance the University’s four libraries will have a copy of your textbook. Sure, it’ll be a little worn, but old books come with colorful markings from students past that might help you in class.

You can borrow a book for four weeks and renew your loan for up to three times, so you basically can have the book to yourself for almost the entire semester (unless someone unfortunately recalls your book). The library will quickly deliver the book you need from Georgetown’s stacks or even from American, GW, and other universities through the Washington Research Library Consortium to the circulation desk on Lau 3.

Sometimes professors, especially in philosophy and political thought classes, will assign texts that are out of copyright. Spare your valuable dollars on those Oxford World’s Classics and look to download what you need from Project Gutenberg, an online directory of texts in the public domain.

Don’t buy a new iClicker

Some professors in large lecture classes will require you to buy a iClicker, a white plastic device with buttons so that they can grade multiple-choice questions that you answer during lecture. Newer iClickers even have a fancy, monochrome screen that provides nothing of educational value but does add substantially to the device’s cost. Renting or buying a new iClicker can cost up to an arm and a leg, or even more, online or at the bookstore.

Since you can register iClickers for class again and again, do your finances a favor and get a used iClicker for just a few bucks off Amazon, or see if the professor’s iClicker software will allow you to use an iClicker smartphone app instead.

Photo: flickr via John Liu

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