This is something I cannot stress enough. Many times, students feel the need to buy books directly from the University’s bookstore, but that’s not necessary. Instead, use the bookstore as a starting point to learn what books you need and then start comparing costs.
Whether you rent or buy (and then sell back) a textbook, be smart about it! While shopping for textbooks for this upcoming semester I was able to save myself well over $200 just by taking a few more minutes and looking at different websites. If jumping from Chegg to Amazon and other websites just to find the lowest cost isn’t your thing, I’ve got great news. There are now websites who will even do all the work for you, such as Bigwords.com. On a site like this, you just enter the ISBN number of the book you are looking for and it will bring up a list of all the places you can buy/rent the textbook in an organized manner of lowest to highest price. The little bit of work and some research will save you lots of money in the long run.
Talk to the professors
Before the semester starts, and before you go ahead and buy your books, email your professors about the textbooks they have listed. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the important questions. Find out if your professor actually plans on using all the books they have listed; you never know, maybe that $150 book isn’t actually required. You can also save money by purchasing an older edition of a book, so ask if the edition that’s listed (usually the newest) is necessary. Usually from edition to edition the content of these textbooks doesn’t change much; it may be a word here or there or just a formatting difference. If you’re able to buy a book that is even only one edition behind, you can pay as little as a dollar for it!
Talk to your friends
If you know someone who has taken a class you are in already, ask if they happened to keep the textbook. If they did, you may be able to buy it off of them at a discounted price, or even borrow it for free for the semester! It might seem silly to think that someone would save their textbooks instead of selling them back, but it never hurts to ask. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Go to your classmates
Its common practice for students to look at the class roster before the class begins because everyone wants to know if they’ve got a friend in class with them. So first, I recommend checking who is in your class. If there is at least one person you know (you don’t have to be best friends) than you’ve got a golden opportunity. Chances are, you are not the only one looking to avoid paying full price for a book, so see if you can split the cost/book with one of your classmates. If there is ever a time you both need the book, one of you can always make copies of the pages or you can study together as partners. That way, everybody wins.
If you’ve got an e-reader, than you’re probably in luck when it comes to textbooks. Almost 100% of the time the cost of an ebook will be significantly lower than a physical copy of the textbook because the publisher is saving money on printing costs. The key to success when using an ebook is making sure that you are comfortable with the navigation process, and your inability to physically take notes on or in the book (though I don’t recommend doing this with any textbook). Different e-readers have different features such as the ability to highlight passages or bookmark pages, so make sure that you know the ins and outs of your e-reader before taking the plunge into the realm of ebooks.
Check the library
Libraries on college campuses are there for academic purposes. This means that the library on campus will differ from your public library at home because of the target audience and content of the shelves. You may not find as many fun novels to read, but you may luck out with finding your textbook on the shelf, essentially already paid for. You’ll likely have to make a few trips to the library throughout the semester to renew your book(s) but that just means you’ll get a breath of fresh air and free books!