By Alexandria Sese > Sophomore > English > University of Illinois at Chicago, Photo by Catherine Finsness > Sophomore > Psychology > The George Washington University
Molly Gabinski, a psychology student from Spring Hill College, once spent around $900 on her textbooks alone. Others may be spending more. With the rise of college tuition and decline of job opportunities, more students like Gabinski are turning to a cheaper alternative: used books. An increasing number of students (and parents) are asking if brand new textbooks are overrated for their price.
The answer may be yes.
Professors who write textbooks often receive commissions based on the sale of their textbooks and as Steven Kennedy of CollegeTextbooks.net explains, “One way to guarantee more sales is to change a few sentences in each chapter and republish the textbook as a new edition.” Most, if not all, students can get away with an old or international edition without missing out on pertinent information. Kennedy recommends asking students who have taken the class previously and find out if the textbooks are used only as reading materials. If so, “odds are you should learn the same concepts by reading an older edition textbook that costs up to 98% less,” says Kennedy.
The best time to purchase textbooks, new or used, is about a month before the semester begins. Kennedy says that it’s best to look for bargains “before the demand and prices [of textbooks] rise.”
Additionally, used books are good investments due to their return value. Kennedy says that most merchants will buy used textbooks even with writing, highlights, creased pages and such. However he warns that most merchants will not buy textbooks with water damage. Another way to make the most of your textbook’s resale value is to check different places that buy and sell used textbooks such as Amazon.com, BookHolders.com, and Half.com.
Renting textbooks from sites like Chegg.com is another option although it doesn’t offer any resale value. With renting, students don’t have to worry about what to do with rented books at the end of the semester, adds Kennedy.
Another advantage to used textbooks? “I personally like the used books because of the notes,” Gabinski shares regarding notes previous owners leave in some of their old textbooks. She says they help her with her homework and tests sometimes. “Though some find the notes distracting,” she adds.
But in the end, much like everything else in college, textbooks are investments. Although some students encounter classes that barely use their textbooks in class, it’s in their best interest to read them whether they are brand new, used, or rented. “I know that to read the book on your own even if it isn’t used in class is helpful to getting the grades that I and all students want,” says Gabinski.