Second-Hand Ain’t Hard


It has now reached the point of term where you may have to stop putting off the fact that all of your professors have given you a list of required textbooks that you are expected (in theory, at least) to read. Unfortunately, this generally involves purchasing them. For money. Which, after paying tuition, may fall somewhere in between a punch to the gut and an all-cat operetta in terms of pleasant experiences. (Unless, of course, you have just returned from your dream job at Google, in which case you may send me audio files of you cackling in lieu of a comment about how this guide does not apply to you). But we are students, and if there is one thing university life has taught us, it is how to get something for much cheaper than we rightly should.


BookRo (

BookRo is a good place to check first. You can look for books based on the class you're taking, by title, by authour, or by ISBN for those of you who knew the Dewy Decimal system a little too well in primary school. It's as easy as searching for the book you need, viewing all the available editions, and picking a seller to contact (aka the person with the cheapest listing). Send them an email, and you are well on your way to attaining an education!


The downside of BookRo is that you are going to have to go meet this seller in real life for this exchange to go down. Give them your phone number if you're comfortable with that. Otherwise, pick a spot and time to meet, and tell them a way to recognize you ("I'll be in a turquoise sweater," or "I wear headpieces fashioned from small animal bones"). Pick a public space, please: safety first. Then, have fun waiting there, making uncomfortable eye contact as you size up everyone in a 5 meter radius, trying to discern if they're packing The Elements of Style.


So you find the seller, and you both rummage in your bags; them for the book and you for the cash. Feel like you're participating in a drug deal? That's natural. Accept it. And hey, now you've got a back-up career in case that English degree doesn't work out.*



There are no shortage of Facebook groups for students looking to sell and exchange textbooks, like UW Textbook Exchange ( Post what you're looking for (or see if someone has posted a sellers list). Much like the BookRo situation, meet up with them, feel strangely unsettled, and then go home to study their notes and ignore the drawings of genitalia in the margins.


Feds Used Books

You've made it this far in your degree, and I doubt you've managed it without having heard of Feds Used Books. But, for my hypothetical amnesiac with a syllabus, go to the Used Books website and do a quick search in their database to see if they've got the book you're looking for. They do? Get to the SLC basement and go buy yourself that textbook! They don't? If you're going to campus anyways, it's worth checking out the shelves anyways. Depending on the course, you may be able to find an older edition on the sale shelves (check with your professor first to see is an older edition is acceptable).


Your Friends who are Upper-Years

One of the perks of upper year friends, besides the fact that they know how to do creative things with ramen and peanut butter, is that they will most likely have textbooks that they will want to sell off. Buying from your friends is a great way to avoid the awkwardness of meeting strangers, and your friend will get the whole asking price. Just be sure to be fair; check what the textbook is going for elsewhere, and make your friend a good offer.


So go, student, and get yourself some pre-loved, pre-highlighted, pre-coffee stained books that will leave you with enough cash to avoid ramen. That's right; you're gonna be able to buy regular noodles this term.



*I am an English major. Therefore, your hate mail will be graded on cadence and tone: spelling counts.