Buying Books, not Breaking the Bank

Between food, bills and tuition, college students already have limited funds. Here are some easy ways to get the books you need for classes without emptying your savings account. Photo by Jessica Behrman

Let’s face it. College is expensive, especially  private liberal arts schools. The beginning of each semester is when bank accounts are emptied of hard earned money from the summer months. Even the little cash that is earned through part-time jobs during the school year goes towards paying the bills.

After struggling to pay the larger bills for tuition and room and board, the smaller charge for textbooks adds up too. Science majors line up to purchase one large textbook, priced in the triple digits. English majors, meanwhile, stack up several books with double digit prices to cost them around the same amount. 

The issue is, many students  don’t know where to buy cheap textbooks,  leading them to spend extra at the campus bookstore, or spend countless frustrating hours online trying to find the best deals. 

Well, let’s just say the struggle is real. Being a college student is not easy, and finding affordable textbooks makes it even harder. Following the steps below will help relieve some of that new semester stress and leave a little extra cash in your pocket for pizza during study time. 

Step 1

Ask a friend if they happen to still have the material for the class you’re taking, or even ask a friend of a friend. Undoubtedly, someone is bound to have taken the course you are registered for already. Through a few connections, you might end up with books for the bottom dollar, or better yet just borrowed (The course notes might cost a little extra, though).

Step 2

Not having luck with the friend book chain? Try going to the place where you can find books everywhere you turn. Check out what the Albion College library has to offer. If you find the book you need for class, you can check it out for the whole semester. 

There are also course reserves. Professors will loan the library their personal course material so that students can check out required books for two to four hours. Stop by and study with a group or make photocopies for later. If the books you are looking for are not available, try asking your professor if there is another copy you could borrow. 

Step 3

Go to the Albion College Bookstore. Maybe it’s not the first step suggested, but it’s definitely not the last. The college really does try and make required materials affordable and available to students. However, they, too, are trying to make money. 

Offering a price match, the bookstore allows for some deals to be made to help you save. Watch out when selecting the rental books! 

Renting used books will always be the cheapest option; however, once the bookstore runs out, they automatically upgrade you and charge you for a new book. This can often happen with new courses and when materials are being substituted into the curriculum. 

Step 4

If you opted to pass on the bookstore prices, then you’ll need to narrow down your decisions. Do you learn better online or with a physical book? Would you like to purchase or rent? Does the quality matter? If so, do you prefer your books to be new or used?

In the long run, with technology constantly advancing, ebooks might be the best way to go. In fact, many websites have downloadable pdf versions of entire textbooks now. The options are endless for those of you waiting until the last minute to find assigned reading material. 

When purchasing print, wanting new books is not cheap; however, a few places will give you choices of various conditions for a very discounted price. 

Looking for those print editions, English majors? There are two sites that can offer you prices that will definitely keep money in your pockets. Thriftbooks has access to almost any English textbook required, in multiple editions and various conditions. The best part is that shipping is free after spending ten dollars. Also, after making an account and buying books, you will earn points that equal a free book. That’s one future textbook for free! The other option is Abebooks; a site that provides all those anthologies English majors love so much.

Hey there, science majors. Struggling with spending $200 or more on one textbook?  Unsure whether you need both the access code and the book itself?

First, to clear up the confusion, each access code comes with the “ebook” or “learnsmart” links. So, yes, buying just the access code will give you a digital version of the book.

If this is all you need to hear, then the best option is to purchase straight from the login websites. For courses at Albion, biology is most likely to use McGraw-Hill Education, while chemistry and math go for MyLab & Mastering Pearsons

There are a few extra tips for those access codes, as well. Often, the access code will be good for a year. If so, this means you can use the same book for two semesters. 

So is Albion doing you a favor? Yes! If you need to take Biology 195 and Biology 210 then you will be using the same exact book. So, to save even more money, try to schedule these courses in back to back semesters.

Lastly, if you need a more hands-on textbook and not just the access code, take a look at Amazon’s rental textbooks. The prices are a little lower than most places, and they provide the shipping labels so there’s no worries on how to return the books when you are finished. Of course, you can also just purchase them, too, if that is the best choice for you. 

Step 5

Take a breather and don’t worry. Your textbooks will be here on time.

About Jessica Behrman 44 Articles
Jessica is a senior from Fremont, Indiana, with a goal of one day becoming a science writer. She loves the environment, anything dark chocolate and an adventurous story.

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