Options for Acquiring Your College Textbooks

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Getting all of your college textbooks can be easy, but there are also certain circumstances that can make getting them quite a chore. Sometimes the only bookstore that carries your textbooks is in a hard to find location, sometimes the bookstore is out of specific titles, sometimes there are long line waits (especially during the first week of the semester). A student may also have trouble affording their textbooks since they are prone to huge markups. The steps that follow will help you find the best way to acquire your textbooks.

Materials List: 

List of needed books with title, author, ISBN number, and price

A computer for online searches or pre-ordering (optional)

Enough money to cover the cost of the books, including tax

Photo ID (if choosing to pay with ATM card, credit card, or check)

Library Card(s) (optional)

List of Steps:

1. Compile the list of needed books from your professor, syllabus, or online class catalog

2. Decide whether you would like to purchase your books from the campus bookstore (easiest and most expensive way) or whether you would like to save as much money as possible in acquiring your books (more difficult and time consuming way). Skip to step 12 for money-saving steps.

3. Ensure you have several hundred dollars available to cover the cost of the books and then bring that money with you to the bookstore or you can bring your atm, credit card, or checkbook with you instead. A photo ID will be necessary for non-cash transactions. 

4. Choose to find the books yourself, have an employee get the books for you, or place a pre-order online before arriving at the bookstore on their website that you can pick up at the register.  (Note: if finding the books yourself, be sure to look for your books in the bookstore sections that correspond to your class subject. Friendly bookstore employees will be able to help you if you get lost or cannot locate what you’re looking for.)

5. Choose the best book option that works for your needs and budget. (In addition to buying new books, it is also now an option to buy used books, rent books, or purchase them for electronic download onto an e-reader. These methods have become available in an effort to help students mediate the exorbitant cost of textbooks.) 

6. Make your way to the registers once you have all the books you came for.

7. Wait in line until the next register becomes available. (Note: lines can be quite long at campus bookstores during the first week or two of classes. It is recommended that you get your books as early as possible, or that you arrive at the bookstore when it first opens. Pre-ordering your textbooks can also help ease the wait-time.)

8. Present your books to the check-out clerk to scan.

9. Give the clerk your preferred method of payment. Be sure to also show your photo ID if you choose to pay with an atm card, credit card, or check.

10. Take the receipt from the clerk.

11. Keep your receipt handy as you exit (some bookstores require that you show your receipt to a security guard before leaving the store in order to check it against the books you are leaving the store with).

12. Find out if any of your friends have a copy of the textbooks you need and if they are willing to let you borrow or share them.

13. Check to see if the campus library or local public library has available copies of the textbooks you are seeking. You can ask a librarian to look for book titles for you. Or you can do an online search by title, author or ISBN number 

14. Ask the librarian to hold the available books from your list, or you can go to the library’s online website and place an online hold order for those books. You will need a library account in order to place holds.

15. Go to the library and pick the books up when you are notified that they are available. (Note: you will have to renew the books as their dates expire since college semesters last longer than library rental periods.)

16. Consult your list of required books to see what titles are still left. 

17. Check used book stores and online booksellers’ prices for the books you are looking for in order to find the best price. (Note: It is always important to remember that when you purchase books online you have to allow for the time it takes to ship them—sometimes 2 to 4 weeks.)

18. Purchase the lowest priced books you were able to find. (Note: if a seller has a decent return policy, but you are not sure if they have the best price, purchase the book from them and then keep looking to see if you can get a better deal.)

19. Keep the books in pristine condition to the best of your ability so that you can make as much money back from them as possible if you choose to sell them when you are done. 

Considerations: When purchasing or locating free copies of books, these steps are not hard and fast rules. These should act as more of a guide that will give the student a good idea of how to proceed when looking to acquire their textbooks. 

Conclusion: The affordability of acquiring college textbooks shouldn't deter you from making the decision to go to college. If one tailors these steps to suit their own textbook acquiring needs and approaches the task with planning, such as leaving enough time to buy books online or going to the campus bookstore early to avoid the lines, one can make the process of buying textbooks easy and stress-free, and sometimes even cost-free!