In just a couple weeks students will be flocking to the bookstore to sell back their books, hoping to get, at most, half their money back on the fortune spent on textbooks in August. Some will be lucky to get one dollar back on that $15-novel for an English class. But there is a better way: Don’t even buy from the bookstore in the first place. Take advantage of online booksellers to stock up for the spring semester, and you’ll save at least 50 percent of your money.
Don’t pay $18 for a new copy of Robert Fagles’ “Odyssey” from the bookstore. Don’t even pay $13.50 for a used one. Amazon is selling that edition for $10.97 right now, and you can buy it used from Abebooks for $3.48. If you buy from the bookstore, you lose money. Lots of it.
Trust me — as a history major, I spent less than $100 on books this semester by buying entirely from online sellers. If I’d bought everything from the bookstore, I would have paid more than $300. Of course some majors — like math majors, for example — require expensive textbooks that will be pretty expensive no matter where you buy them. But if you want to save money in all your other classes, ditch the bookstore.
Search engines like bookfinder.com and bigwords.com scour the web for the best deals on books, so they do most of the hard work for you. Often the best deals are from obscure sites like BetterWorldBooks.com and Abebooks.com, beating out more well-known online sellers like Amazon.com and eBay.com. I’ve had great experiences with both.
Rentals can also be a more viable option than buying from the bookstore: renting textbooks is often cheaper than buying, especially with regard to math, science, and economics texts. Most online sellers offer rental options, and some will cover your shipping costs. The one thing to watch out for is deadlines: all sellers require you to return your rentals by a specified date, so if you rent a text make sure you don’t have to return it before finals.
And don’t forget about the library. If you’re majoring in history, English, French, or Classics, chances are you can find some of your required reading in the Mossey Library — this semester alone I checked out at least a third of my books from Mossey. Watch out, though: the library might not carry the exact edition you need, which may cause problems in class, depending on your professor’s standards and requirements.
The bookstore can be great: the employees are friendly and helpful, and if you need Hillsdale paraphernalia, that’s the place to shop, but don’t buy your textbooks from the college. You’re already paying tuition, room, and board — why spend a fortune on books when you can get the right edition in good condition somewhere online for so much less?
Ms. Patrick is a senior studying history and journalism.