6 smart tips for saving money on textbooks
They’re too much money and harder to shake than the annoying guy who sits next to you in seminars: textbooks are the least exciting and most necessary student expense.
Though yours might spend the majority of the year as well-written doorstops, they’re worth it for those few pages that will save your exam from complete disaster. But that’s no reason to go broke over them. Here are 6 tips for saving money on books:
1. Be picky about your reading list
Never, ever buy everything on the recommended reading list – you simply won’t have time to absorb them all. You’ll often find a large crossover between texts, so try to find the book with the most complete information.
Also, much is made by lecturers of needing a specific edition but it’s not always necessary – often you’re paying for little more than a couple of extra sentences (and topping up the coffers of the lecturer who wrote the thing in the first place!). The previous edition will be much less expensive while usually offering almost all of the same content.
2. Buy secondhand
If the latest edition of a textbook is vital, make a note of when it was published – if it wasn’t this year then scour the secondhand markets. Also, note that uni departments often host ‘offload your battered book’ days. Online, try Amazon, Fatbrain, Biblio, Abebooks and SellStudentStuff (though watch out for nasty postal charges). Gumtree is also an option and is a chance to put your ‘barter hat’ on.
Money saving tip: Most textbook retailers have a secondhand section hidden away (their websites will do too).
3. Split the costs of textbooks with friends
If your course really demands a lot of material, then split the reading list between your friends and share the books. If you need to, photocopy the most important chapters (important – do this sparingly as you don’t want to end up breaching copyright law!).
Money saving tip: Before shopping for textbooks with friends, check online for vouchers or discounts with book retailers.
4. Rent books
Textbooks are unlikely to ever become treasured possessions. In fact, if you do hold onto them after the course is over, they may prove themselves most useful as paper missiles or substitutes for firewood. So if you’re not going to need them longterm, why not rent instead? Blackwells offer a dedicated textbook rental service, allowing you to pick up a book for 30, 60 or 90 days. Alibris have a limited selection too.
Money saving tip: Don’t forget the trusty old uni library – if you’re quick on your feet, you can grab the books on the reading list before your classmates.
5. Raise cash for new textbooks by selling your old ones
Make your first foray into business and sell your textbooks once you’re done with them. The same retailers who offer secondhand books will typically buy texts from students too. Fatbrain offer very fair rates and even cover your postage.
Money saving tip: See if there’s a ‘guaranteed buy-back’ scheme at your local bookstore. Be sure to keep your receipt and the ‘guaranteed buy back’ sticker (if applicable) as some retailers are notoriously flaky about making good on their promises when it means parting with cash.
6. Use e-books instead
It’s true that academic e-books are rarely much cheaper than their paper counterparts. However, you can download free eBooks at BookBoon. You can also explore articles and journals using Google Scholar.
Money saving tip: If you’re after a particular book, head to your local neighbourhood search engine and type in the title followed by “.pdf” e.g. “On the Origin of Species.pdf”. This can lead to a free version. They’re sometimes incomplete but are incredibly helpful when you need that final impressive reference to add shine to your essay (important – stay legal when doing this, don’t download full books that are still in copyright).
Hopefully these tips will help you stay within your budget (and leave you with more money for socialising). And don’t forget that as well as tips and advice, Student Money Saver finds the best deals and freebies for you.
David Ellis is editor of student finance site Student Money Saver, who share deals, discounts and everything you need to know about student money. David also writes for the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. You can find most of his articles here.
Like Student Money Saver on Facebook.
Follow Student Money Saver on Twitter.