Textbooks are an unfortunate expense. You need them for school — sometimes — and rarely can get a refund. If you’re particularly unlucky you might get stuck with buying a brand new book at full price, or worse, you could find out that the edition is no longer going to be used next term and now you’ve got to sell it at least for half what you bought it. Not to mention the Used Bookstore won’t even take it if it’s been off of a syllabus for too long.</p>
Of course, the easiest way to save money on textbooks is to not buy them at all. Rule number one is never buy a textbook simply because it is on the syllabus. Wait until the first week of classes is over at least to determine how many of the assigned readings are actually in the textbook and don’t be scared to ask your professor outright. Borrow your books from the library (not just UW’s but the public library is also great!) or a really generous friend. Sometimes you’ll only need select pages, in which case you can photocopy them at the library.
However, sometimes you will have to bite the bullet and buy the book. There are two ways you can reduce your costs though: spend less on textbooks upfront and resell your used books to recoup some of the costs.
One way to spend less right off the bat is to rent your books instead of buying them. Textbooks are available for rent at the media.doc outlets on campus plus there are services like www.textbookrental.ca where you can get books at a competitive price. Renting usually means you only pay a portion of what the buying price is but it comes with the added responsibility of a) keeping the book in pristine condition and b) remembering to return it on time. Normally I would say just be responsible and treat your book with care, but the pristine condition often means no writing or highlighting and for some people (myself included) that is integral to their studying style and therefore their academic success. In which case are you really saving yourself money if you don’t do well in class?
You can also save a pretty penny by buying previous editions of the text. Don’t shy away from it provided you know what’s changed between the editions. I used to be really nervous about doing this because I was scared of missing something which would definitely be on the exam (like an extreme academic FOMO) but in my experiences so far: one edition behind is safe. Check with your professor too because he/she knows best what and if something has changed and very often can understand not everyone can afford to buy books.
And of course, shop around—both when buying and selling. There are plenty of venues to check. Join the UW Textbook Exchange on Facebook group, check kijiji and any of the multitudes of textbook-selling web venues (Google it!), and of course, the Used Bookstore in the SLC. Checking around is also a great way to price books when you’re reselling—see what other prices are out there, then price competitively. Just make sure you’re not losing money if you can help it. Sadly it’s not common to make all your money back, so really just avoid buying altogether if you can help it.