Here is one of the classic college conundrums: you need the books to do well in your classes, but the books cost so much money that you don’t know how you’ll get them. Higher Learning details some initial strategies to cut book costs down (in addition to providing pages full of critical advice on how to most effectively use your books once you have them). Here are some more suggestions and resources for getting lower cost books:
Rent your textbooks. This option may be available through your campus bookstore and online retailers, and provides you with flexibility if you won’t need the book(s) beyond the semester.
Share books with friends / classmates. The upside here is that you’ll split costs and save money. The downside is that you still may not have the book when you need it because someone else is using it.
Buy new or used books online. These sites and articles below provide helpful tips and vendors:
Use the campus library. If a book is being used for a class, it may be available in your campus library on “reserve,” meaning you can read it in the library but not remove it. If reading in the library fits your daily schedule, this could work for you. If you think you’ll need to have more time with the book, see if it’s available from another library that works in partnership with your school. Check your library’s website for details on such arrangements, or ask a librarian. The downside here is that these loan agreements between libraries often limit your borrowing time (to maybe just a couple of weeks), and obviously, it will take time for the book to arrive, so you can’t pursue this option at the last minute. Also know that, whether you borrow the book from your school’s library or via a partnership agreement, it can potentially be recalled by another person wanting to borrow it.
Crowdsource the knowledge. This one is a strategy you should use whether you have the books or not. For many classes, from the sciences, to history and literature, to business, to healthcare, to cultural studies, to coding, to everything in between, the information is the information. Some books may present it more effectively than others or go more in depth, but you can likely find suitable material all around you - online, old editions of the text that someone is giving away, other books on the subject at the library, and more. OpenStax is a wonderful project providing free textbooks on many subjects. There are also numerous online courses and tutorial sites that can deepen your understanding, and allow you to work at your own pace (see the next section - Class - for more on those). You should make use of as many resources as you can make time for, particularly for challenging courses. (And here’s a hint - start early, like during summer break). Even with this, you should still make it a point to at least review the current textbook being used in your courses to assess how the information is being presented and determine what information has been updated. And if homework is assigned from the book, you definitely need to have access to the proper edition to get that done.
Check on campus. Many of the options outlined above - sharing, renting, getting used (or free!) copies - can be done right on your campus via a website or app, local independent bookstores, students groups, the main campus bookstore, and other venues. Ask around and take advantage of the opportunities.
Loan your books. If you’re done with them, consider loaning (or giving) them to a fellow student in need. You can never have too many good karma points. (Note: If you plan on getting the book(s) back, let the person know, and encourage them to keep them in good condition. Also, jot down a reminder of what book(s) you loaned to what people because by the end of the semester you won’t remember any of this.)
Get money. For some students, books are not only the source for information for the semester, but also a source of income. It’s not likely that you’ll earn a profit off the enterprise of selling your books, but you can certainly get back some of your initial investment. If you are re-selling your books, you want to keep them clean and crisp. But here’s the issue - do you learn more when you highlight or write in them? If so, try writing lightly in pencil and then erase it later. But if that’s not working, and you really need the bright highlighter, then go for it, because again, your primary investment here is in doing well in the course. Do you want to earn a few thousand more dollars because you landed a better job due to higher grades, or do you want to earn eight more dollars reselling a book because it’s in slightly better condition? #Perspective.