Where Should I Buy Textbooks?
Let me start this week’s column by recounting something that my six year old did recently. During an activity celebrating the 100th day of the school year, she and her classmates were asked what they would do with it, if given $100. Other children’s answers included purchasing toys or sports cars, among other things. What, you ask, did my child say? She said “Save it for college!” Then upon further questioning, “Because college is so expensive!” Now, before anyone accuses me of brainwashing my child, or even of appropriating her imaginary $100… Let me assure you we’ve talked about college, about education, and we’ve talked about her and her sister going to college, about saving money for college, and that it IS expensive. But that spontaneous answer was entirely hers, not mine.
I guess the real test will be later, when she really is supposed to be saving for college…
Now, on with the article!
Should I buy my textbooks from a bookstore at my school or online?
The online stores probably do have better prices, but they have to. You probably wouldn’t buy from them otherwise! While economy is a very important consideration, it shouldn’t be your only one. You should also consider how quickly you can get your books, how easily you could return a book if necessary (in case you drop a class, etc.), and how much time you have to invest in textbook shopping.
Shopping around is absolutely the best way to get the best price – and you may need to shop around for each book! That will take a lot of time and energy, but if you’re willing, you could save a bunch. You might see if a family member could help you do this. What really makes this time-consuming is the fact that you need the ISBN number or the author or title of each text. That’s available either on the course syllabus (which you’ll have to find online) or in one of the brick and mortar stores. If you shop at your college, your books will be listed by the course prefix and number, online they will be listed by ISBN, title or author. You may also have to use more than one source to get all of your books because not all stores will carry all your books. Plus, they could be sold out…
I suggest you buy your books for your first semester of school at your college. They’ll be easier to find, and then return if you have to. After that, you’ll have a better idea how the textbook system works, how to quickly find ISBN numbers, about optional texts, and will have better access to other students and their advice about books. Then you’ll be an educated consumer and get absolutely the best price.
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