Textbooks: How to cut costs…and headaches!

By Lauren Sharkey

College – whether it be tuition, books, housing, etc. – is at an all-time high as far as cost is concerned.  As a result, college students have to figure out different ways they can stretch their dollars in order to cover their bases.

While there isn’t much students can do to bring down the cost of tuition, housing, and meal plans – textbooks are something we have a little control over.   Here are some tips and tricks you can use to make sure you get the most for your money:

1.  Buy Used

While there’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a new book (yeah, I’m a little nerdy that way), new books can cost you more than an arm and a leg.  Even though there are some used books that have definitely seen better days, they often come with a lower price tag than new books.  Better still – sometimes the person has left helpful notes inside.  So, try not to buy new books unless absolutely necessary.

2.  Sharing is Caring

Sharing textbooks is a great way to cut down on the cost of buying books – not only do you get to split the cost of the book, but you get a study buddy too!  However, finding someone to share your book with is not the easiest task.  Try some of the following if you need help finding that special someone 🙂 :

  • Facebook:  Post a status on your Facebook page, asking if anyone knows anyone in your class looking to go splitskies on a book.  If that doesn’t work, you could also try posting on Stony Brook Trader, or joining the Students Selling & Buying Textbooks @ Stony Brook University Facebook group.
  • Blackboard:  If you log into Blackboard and click on one of your courses, you should see a column on the left hand side that has the name of your course, and a menu containing Announcements, Home Page, Discussions, etc.  If you click on Tools and search for “Roster”, you will be able to see the complete list of students in your class.  You can send an e-mail to the class (using the firstname.lastname@stonybrook.edu for all students) and ask if anyone wants to share a book.
  • The old-fashioned way:  Ask the building manager of your department’s building if you can post an ad.

3.  You know we’ve got a library, right?

Libraries are college’s best kept secret when it comes to textbooks.  For some reason, no one thinks to go there.  However, going to the library saves you time and money in the long-run.  Additionally, professors often check to make sure the library has their textbook handy before they assign it to the syllabus.  However, copies tend to go quickly so if you’re planning on utilizing the library, you better get a move on!

4.  Rent

Renting textbooks is a popular option for those students looking to cut costs.  However, there are downsides when it comes to renting including hidden fees.   Bookstores (both college and retail) and online retailers have implemented a variety of rental options for students.

5.  E-books

A good number of textbooks are available electronically, provided that you have an e-reader.  E-books are good for a number of reasons: they are mobile, you can easily navigate through them, and oftentimes your e-reader will allow you to highlight and make notes as needed.

6. Edition, Edition, Edition!

If your professor has specified a specific edition of a book, ask whether or not it is absolutely necessary for you to buy the newer edition.  More often than not, you can still get by with the older edition of a book – the only thing that’s off is the page numbers.  However, newer editions tend to have supplemental materials that may be necessary for the course.  Always be sure to check what the differences between editions are!

While these are just a few ways you can save cash when it comes to textbooks, they are not without flaws.  Be sure to check out the Pros and Cons of Getting Textbooks on the Cheap before you lay out your dinero!

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