Guide to Buying Textbooks

A new semester is beginning, so I figured I’d write a quick guide to buying textbooks. Textbook prices are ridiculous because capitalism doesn’t function correctly in many areas in academia. In this case, the professor who chooses what book to use gets the book for free, while the student just has to buy whatever is assigned. There’s no reason to pay full price for textbooks however, so it doesn’t end up being that expensive if you buy books the right way.

Where to Buy Textbooks

  • Another Student – If you can buy from students at your college, that’s probably the best option. You get the book right away without any shipping costs, and you can sometimes get free notes and tips too.
  • Buy it Used Online – Never rent a book or buy one from a  bookstore. Don’t just go straight to Amazon.com either. To get the best price, use a price comparison search. The best ones are probably CampusBooks.com and DirectTextbooks.com. I also put up a book search at NYtextbooks. You just enter the information of the book you want, and find the best price for it on the internet. There’s no point in renting a book, since when you finish using the book, you can often re-sell it for only a little less than what you paid for it.
  • International Edition Books – The book publishers charge American students a very different price than what they charge the international students. However, American students can buy the international editions online on sites like TextbooksRus.com or the slightly more reliable AbeBooks.com. They are much cheaper to buy the international editions, and although “not authorized for sale in the USA”, there’s nothing illegal about buying them (The Supreme Court ruled on this issue in 1998). Lately however, the publishers have tried to make the international editions different than the US editions. If you’re not being assigned homework from the book, this normally isn’t an issue, but if you are, you’ll likely have the wrong problems. In theory, you can photocopy another students’ HW problems, or even downlaod a copy online, but that obviously runs into legal issues. Also, you often have to wait longer to get the book, since they normally ship from places like Singapore or China, so you should order the book in advance. International editions are also harder to re-sell, since it goes against Amazon’s and Half.com’s  terms. However, you can sell them to another student or on TextbooksRus.com.  
  • eBooks – These are normally not worth the cost. They often charge more than the cost of a used textbook, but only let you use it for 180 days. Eventually, they may add more interactive features to these eBooks, so they become a better option than using dried tree.