Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Save Money When Buying College Textbooks

The next semester is fast approaching, with the need to purchase textbooks. There are several ways students can save money when buying textbooks. Online bookstores often sell used college textbooks. When buying a used textbook, it is important first to know as much as possible about the textbook. The following list of things to know will be helpful, especially to first time students.

You need to know the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Textbook publishers release new editions of textbooks on a regular schedule. If you purchase the wrong textbook edition, the assignments and projects may not be the same as those the instructor assigns. The ISBN is different for each edition, so this is a must to know.

You need to know if the textbook has a CD or DVD with it. Often, you can find the textbook used at one of the popular online bookstores. If the textbook you need has a CD or other materials that you need, be sure to only purchase the used textbook if the seller specifically states that the ancillary materials are present. In the case of CDs and DVDs, it is best if the seller states that they are unopened. This way you know the original owner has not scratched it beyond use. Also, the CD may have a license that states only the first buyer may use it. It may have a one-time use activation code. Be careful of the descriptions, too. Acceptable usually means that the textbook is written in, highlighted, or is damaged in some way that does not preclude being able to read it. Like new and new descriptions are best.

You need to know the price at the campus bookstore. It does not help you to buy online just to find out that the book sells cheaper at the campus bookstore (though this seldom is the case). What might happen, though, is that the campus bookstore purchases the textbook from the publisher bundled with additional required materials, such as a student version of software used in the textbook. Often the bundled textbook and materials cost less than purchasing a used book and the required materials separately.

When buying college textbooks on the Internet, order your textbooks from online bookstores well before class begins. Most college instructors are not sympathetic when you do not have the textbook you ordered but did not yet receive, especially when the campus bookstore still has copies available.
Do not purchase a used textbook hoping the answers to questions will be written in the book. Quite often, the answers are wrong, which will lower your grade. At any rate, the course does you no good if you do not learn the material. It is difficult to explain to prospective employers why you are not able to do a task if they know you received an A in the class that teaches the task. Using someone else's answers is lazy, unethical, and immoral-and if you are caught doing so, could be grounds for dismissal from the college or university.

If you are interested in buying a used textbook from another student who has just completed the course, be sure you know that the textbook is the same one being used in your class. Even on the same campus, different instructors teaching the same class may use different textbooks. Also, especially in technical classes, the field changes so fast that textbooks seldom last for more than two semesters before being replaced with newer editions or even different textbooks produced by a different publisher.

If you are using Financial Aid to finance your education and purchase your textbooks, you will probably have to purchase your textbooks at the campus bookstore in order to have them in time for the first day of class. Financial Aid refunds are most often given to students far too late to use them to purchase textbooks for the semester in which the refund is received. If you want to purchase textbooks at a lower price, but must use Financial Aid monies, save back a portion of the refund for the following semester's textbooks.


  1. I found your site and was very impressed. As a fellow Non Traditional Student I feel this information need to get into the hands of our peers. I am also trying to inform Non Trads on my blog:

    I'll get your link posted to my blog soon. Non Trads need to network as much as they can!

  2. Hi, Mike,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree. Non traditional students need to support each other. It makes the educational process easier for everyone.
    Thanks for the link.