It’s much cheaper to rent textbooks than to buy. Unless you know you’ll need a textbook for more than one class, you’ll likely never use it again after the semester is over, and there’s no sense in keeping around another paper weight. If you’re thinking of reselling your books to get your money back, don’t bother. Used textbooks don’t sell for much, and if your book is an outdated edition by the time you get around to selling it, it’ll be practically worthless.
E-books vs. Textbooks
Textbooks are no different from paperbacks. The electronic version is almost always cheaper. E-readers do have their downsides, though. The battery can die, it’s hard to flip back to a section you want to reread, and the page numbers may not correlate with the physical edition your professor references, but the technology is constantly improving. If you can deal with the inconveniences of e-books, the saved money (even factoring in the cost for an e-reader) is worth it.
Buy Old Editions
Textbooks are constantly being updated, but with each new release it seems that the price goes up more than the value. Often times, the most recent edition of a textbook only smooths out the past volume’s kinks, fixing a typo, switching out an old picture for a better one, and maybe adding a few lines of newly-discovered information. The content and the format of the book almost never radically change. The price, however, does. Old editions of textbooks have almost no value because schools and publishers only buy and sell the newest editions. Consequently, old editions of textbooks can usually be found online for a less expensive price than a new edition.
The internet is full of resale sites that are full of college students looking to get rid of their old textbooks and make back some of the money they spent on them. Used books are always cheaper than brand new ones, and resale sites offer the opportunity for competitive pricing where sellers try to charge the least amount of money so customers buy from them instead of someone else. If you have the time to shop around on different sites, you’re sure to find some good deals.
It’s great to be prepared, and to buy all of your books before the semester even starts, but sometimes it pays off to procrastinate. When you show up to class on the first day, there’s a chance you’ll regret not having the book yet, but there’s also a chance you’ll find out that you don’t really need the book. Professors may divulge that the textbook is merely recommended instead of required.
Pro tip: check ratemyprofessors.com to see if past students used their textbooks for the class. If you don’t have to buy the book, don’t waste your money on it.
Check the Library
Your campus library won’t have every textbook, but it may have some. If you’re fortunate enough to have a class that rarely uses the textbook, you might be able to get by with checking out the book from the library on the few occasions you’ll need it. As long as someone else doesn’t have the same idea and gets there first, you can get your studying in for free.