Thursday, January 10, 2013

college textbooks

This post is dedicated to my little, Maddy, who inspired me to write this. :)

It’s that time of year again, folks: the time when that bulging vein your parents’ foreheads starts becoming more and more prominent. Yes, it is once again time to purchase textbooks for class. Sorry, but it’s a necessary evil. So how are you going to accomplish this without driving your parents into even more despair? Well first, we must weigh our options.


Ahh, the tried and true method of acquiring textbooks – buying. You go to the campus bookstore, wind your way through shelves with class listing on them, find your books, pay, and be on your way. Sounds easy, right? Sure, it’s pretty straightforward. But what you’re forgetting is that the campus bookstore is the biggest scam since male enlargement pills. Seriously, the bookstore charges so much more than everywhere else. Advice: don’t go to the campus bookstore unless you absolutely have to.

I am taking 13 hours this semester (maybe 16, depending how a few things pan out). Based on what the online campus bookstore says, if I buy all the textbooks from them new, I will pay almost $500. WHAT?? That is absolutely ridiculous!

So I run the numbers if I got all of them used. That saved me about $100 or so. But still not good enough.

I then go to, which is the powerhouse behind the local textbook store in my college town, where they advertise that their books are cheaper than that of the campus bookstore. After doing some number-punching, I found that they are BARELY cheaper.

People throw out the argument that you can sell books back, so it’s ok to go ahead and purchase them. Umm, I’ve sold back textbooks before, and you don’t get jack for them, no matter where you sell them.


Here comes renting. I like online renting because 1. They’re cheaper, 2. I don’t have to worry about selling anything back, 3. I don’t have to stand in line at the bookstore to get them, and 4. I never have to see them ever again. They come, I use them, they disappear out of my life forever. Plus, most online book-rental sites will charge shipping to get to your house, but not to get back to them. Simply print out a shipping label and packing slip, put the books and packing slip in the box, seal the box and attach the shipping label (I prefer colored duct tape), and take it to the UPS Store. All done!

A typical textbook return for me. I wasn't kidding about the duct tape.

 I used to solely use Chegg because they’re very reliable. But I kept running into the problem of them not having the books I needed (not often, but sometimes) so I would have to go other places. So then I stumbled upon a little website called You simply search all your textbooks, add them to your bookbag, and start a price comparison; BIGWORDS does the rest for you. It searches the depths of the internet for the cheapest books, and gives you a list of where to find them and for how much, including shipping. Or, if you don’t want to buy books from different places, you can choose to see the cheapest price at one store.

After a couple emails from professors adding one book and taking off four from my list, my boyfriend offering his old textbooks for the same class, and a sister giving me her iClicker 2, I ran the remaining books through BIGWORDS. The price, not including campus bookstore-only books? $7.80. Including the books only the campus bookstore carries? $87. Now that’s more like it!!

So here’s some tricks to make textbook-gathering less expensive/stressful:
  •      Rent, don’t buy! (unless necessary)
  •      Don’t use the campus bookstore!
  •      Use instead!
  •      Ask your friends!
  •      Wait before gathering books – your professors might change things (even on the first day of class!)
I promise, you’ll thank me at the end of the semester when you literally kiss your books goodbye after dropping them off at the UPS Store. And trust me, when your parents hear how much textbooks are going to cost, they’ll be rejoicing (my dad did!).

Let the Textbook Games begin! (And may the prices be ever in your favor)

Much Love,

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