While in college, I worked at the college bookstore. It was great for me — discount! — but I saw the pain of textbook buying a thousand times over, every single semester.
When I taught at Rutgers-Camden, I tried to pick a book that was cheap, and my second text was online.
Not all professors are that way, though. So if you’re looking to find cheap books, here are a few options. Remember to look for the current edition and PREVIOUS edition of the book online. Sometimes changes from edition to edition are slight, and the previous edition is fine.
1. Half.com. This is my go-to site when buying books. I’ve also sold my old textbooks through the site and made enough cash to keep my dog in fancy kibble.
2. Amazon.com. Amazon’s set up a textbook page for you crazy college kids (full disclosure: I am part of the Amazon Associates programs, so if you click on that link and buy something, I get a couple of quarters in commission).
3. Your bookstore. Colleges do buy back books at the end of the semester and re-sell them. These can run out quickly, though.
4. Online. My “textbook” for one of my Shakespeare classes were copies of the texts printed from the web. How can I do that? Because no one owns the copyright of Shakespeare. The same is true for a lot of older texts, so they’re online for free. I have a Shakespeare iPhone App, too – again, free.
5. Cheap versions. If you’re taking an English class, you can get about 1000 different versions of the works of Keats or Wordsworth. Dover’s books are great, and they do the best to keep their costs down. They used to be Dover Dollar Editions, but the prices have gone up. Still, they’re cheaper than buying a $15 paperback.
Of course, your teacher might want a specific edition by a specific publisher, but most professors know the costs of textbooks and are OK if you save money where you can — at least in the humanities.