I just watched a kid break down in the bookstore because his books for the semester totaled $600 and that’s the american university system in a nutshell
I was on the verge of tears when I got to the cashier so yeah, that’s messed up
While I entirely support following that link, I also suggest going to Abe Books or Book Depository or even eBay to see if there are inexpensive print versions of books you need. I haven’t paid full-price for any of my texts while I’m in school… because that would DOUBLE the cost of school.
I use the ISBN of the require books and search the cheap sites for them.
Good luck out there, guys!
Paging FenrisLorsrai! Come work your resource magic on this post!
I HAVE BEEN SUMMONED. (but I’ll post on my actual bookstore account)
Quick anddirty meta search for books: Addall. it’ll crawl 40+ book sites at once including ABE, ALibris, Amazon, Half in both domestic AND foreign versions.
Meta search #2! GetTextbooks.com which focuses specifically on textbooks. It omits some foreign sites that AddAll includes, BUT it also includes a whole bunch of rentals as well. Renting is probably the most cost effective method overall.
NOW, HOW TO SEARCH!
First determine a few things:
- Make sure you have the ISBN
- IF IT IS A BUNDLE: Determine if you need a software key/CD/workbook/lab book or not. Many times you do not. Math classes increasingly NEED the software key, but more on that later
- ASK THE PROFESSOR: If this is not the first edition of the book, can you use a previous edition? One edition back is generally half the cost of current, two is generally about 1/8th the cost. Generally you can get away with this if its material that doesn’t change rapidly. Your course on the Civil War, you can probably use two editions back. Your computer programming class on latest greatest language… you probably need newest edition.
- FOR LITERATURE CLASSES: determine if you book is from before 1929. If it is, its in public domain, you can almost certain get a free copy online. If they want a SPECIFIC copy for an essay bundled with book, see below.
Now, run your search by ISBN using the two metasearch sites. Open them in separate tabs.
gettextbooks shows you WITH the shipping, Addall does NOT show you the shipping. keep this in mind when you’re comparing. You’ll see a lot of duplication. GetTextbooks will also show you SOME variants.
Now that you have those open, open two more tabs. Run a second search on same two sites using the author and exact title you picked up from search #1. This will show you all the international editions and weird bundles that don’t exactly match the ISBN of the bookstore
WHAT THE HELL IS AN INTERNATIONAL EDITION: its a paperback version of the US version with an angry notice on the cover saying “NOT FOR SALE OUTSIDE INDONESIA”. Its the same book, but way cheaper. ignore the angry warning, the US Supreme Court has your back. NO, REALLY. Right of first sale, baby! ignore the angry warning and you basically have same book, it just isn’t printed with ink made from student tears and unobtanium.
Now filter results based on whether you need any Extra materials or not.
IF YOU DO NEED THE EXTRA MATERIALS: this is where it gets tricky. an intact bundle is generally the most expensive option or near top end of price curve. If you NEED the other materials, you may be able to get them cheaper in pieces. and you can buy mismatched pieces!
Say for example you need a math textbook, but need the software key for the math problem program. The professor said you can use older book. Buy a math book that one or more editions back and then buy the software key separately from the SOFTWARE manufacturer. You’ll find the software keys on booksites all by themselves, but they’re generally way more expensive than buying the key direct from software manufacturer. and no shipping then!
NOW A WORD ON LITERATURE: sometimes profs want you to get a specific edition of something to read a specific essay in the book. You have about 50/50 odds that the essay is in the front of the book. IF IT IS, you may be able to read the essay on Amazon by going to that books page and clicking on the “look inside”. They generally preview between 10-30 pages of books and that often means its the essay you needed, not the actually BODY of the book. So you can look up the specific copy of Frankenstein on Amazon, read the essay, then download a free different version from Project Gutenberg.
FOR RECENT NONFICTION, make sure you have an up to date library card for your HOME library and the LOCAL city library where your college is. Many have digital loans available, where you can check out the ebook for free and popular nonfiction is frequently available that way.
IF YOU CAN GET YOUR BOOKLIST BEFORE GOING TO SCHOOL: shop for the mundane things locally first. There will be 50 people in CollegeTown looking for that book, you may be the only one in your home town. supply and demand, if you found it in collegetown, it may be 10X price of your local bookstore.
and check you local library as well! You may be able to check out some of those books from your local library and take them to school with you and renew them online one or more times, depending on how in demand they are. There will be NO copies in CollegeTown library because there’s 50 people asking for it. But your HOME town, you may be able to renew it twice since its low demand. Write on your calender when they’re due or need to be renewed. Renew them OR tuck the whole pile into a Priority Mail flat rate box and send them home to your folks. The cost of the priority box to send several library books home is probably way less than what you’d pay for them. (or if its stuff you know you need AFTER a break where you’ll be home, request a hold from school, pick up at home)
ONE LAST WORD BEFORE YOU BUY…
You determined you HAVE to buy a book and you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices of source. Run a search for “coupon + Sitename” what looked like the lowest priced may not if you find a coupon for the 2nd or 3rd lowest priced option. Gettextbook will generate some automatically, but you may be able to find even better ones.
So make yourself some food, get a beverage, put on some tunes and compare prices!
and if you’re reached point of wanting to curl up in a ball and die, you can send us an ask with the ISBN for your book and answers to questions aobe (extra materials, previous edition, etc) and we’ll send you back an note with a link to the cheapest one we can find. I do this for a living, send an ask and I’ll get it done usually within about 12 hours.
WHOOP WHOOP MASSIVE EXCELLENT RESOURCE ADVICE ABOVE!!!!
BIGWORDS.COM is another site where you can type in the ISBN and do a price comparison for all the textbook sites. The nice thing about this site (not sure if the others do it or not) is you enter ALL your books and it does a price search to compare for the lowest total. And it has selectors like ‘online/not online’, used/new, rent/buy, international/us….
Pretty helpful for stress when the school bookstore total says $400, and bigwords says $170.