Find Your Best College Textbook Option
Shortly after my parents dropped me off at college for the first time I had this conversation with Laura, my future sister-in-law:
LAURA: Tomorrow I’ll take you to the bookstore to get your books.
ME: Books? You mean like, textbooks?
ME: So the professors don’t pass those out the first day of class or something? I have to pay for them?
LAURA (SHAKING HER HEAD IN DISBELIEF): Wow.
If you’re anything like I was, you’ve probably never had to think about buying textbooks before. Luckily, there are a lot of options to accommodate your budget and your studying style.
Your college bookstore is a great option for newbies and any others who enjoy personal assistance during the buying process. Staff can help you navigate the stacks of books to find the selections for your specific course. You also typically have a week or two to return the books and get a full refund if you end up dropping a course.
A good rule of thumb is to first look for used books because they are considerably cheaper than buying new. (This also means you should buy your books as far in advance as possible so the bookstore doesn’t run out of used books before you get there.) Also, make sure you flip through the book before you buy it—no one wants to buy a book with lots of highlighting and notes in the margins!
And of course there’s no guarantee, but sometimes at the end of the semester you can sell your book back to the bookstore and recoup some of what you originally paid for the book.
Some textbooks are also available to rent, either through the bookstore or other online resources. This can be a really great option because it’s typically considerably cheaper than buying the book.
The only thing to keep in mind is that if the course is within your major, you may consider buying the book because it may be one you want to keep for future reference.
An increasing number of textbooks are available digitally for use on tablets and other reading devices. These copies are generally less expensive than physical copies of textbooks, so this option may be worth exploring.
Another plus is that you can easily highlight text and make all the notes that you want. And you aren’t having to lug around a big heavy textbook.
However, you may also want to consider who your professor is and how they typically give reading assignments. For instance, if your professor likes to skip around and just has you read different sections within chapters, sometime these can be difficult to isolate in digital books.
Here at Angelo State, our Multicultural Center maintains a textbook library for its book swap. Depending on who donated the book you need, you may be able to buy the book at a reduced cost or borrow it for free for the semester. (Hint: This is a good first place to go before you buy any books!)
You can also browse around online and look for places selling used textbooks. You can often get good deals on books, but this option typically requires planning ahead. You want to have your book by the first week of the semester because a lot of times professors start giving reading assignments the very first day. To ensure that you have your book in time, our students need to log on to our portal, RamPort, several weeks in advance of the start of the semester and view the required texts for their classes.
Sometimes this can be problematic if your professor changes his or her mind about a textbook or tells you the first day that you won’t be using the book often enough to need to buy it. But typically you probably won’t have to worry about this.
At Angelo State, the Porter Henderson Library maintains reference copies of textbooks for many of the popular core courses. If you have no budget for textbooks, this may be a viable option for you.
Keep in mind that if you do intend on using the library for your textbook needs, you might not be the only one. The library allows you to check out textbooks for two hours at a time, but you can’t leave the library with them. You can make copies and scans, but when your two hours is up, you have to hand it over.
A Final Note
Whew, that was a lot of options. Your budget and personal preferences will determine the best textbook choice for you, but be sure to examine all your options first. Happy shopping!