7 mistakes everyone makes buying textbooks

Student Textbooks Advice

As each new term rolls in -and especially as the lead up to exams begins- getting material for your course becomes an unfortunate necessity. At first, the reading list is something like this:

student reading list reaction

And then you realise you're expected to pay for all these...

text prices

There’s something indescribably horrible about handing over the small fortune for a repackaged tree that you’ll largely ignore. Still, for that one chapter than does see you scrape the 2:1, it’s probably worth it. Avoid these everyday mistakes to get the most for your money.

1. Buying unnecessary books

The reading list is so long and intelligible, it may as well be a court order. There are too many choices.

reading list choices

The easy way out - the usual way out - is to assume that all are required and all will be helpful. In many instances, that simply isn't the case: find the one or two essentials.

Pop down to the bookshop, flick through a few of the suggested reads and find whichever is most appealing and manages to succinctly relay the pertinent information. After all, there little more frustrating than spending £40 on a book so incomprehensible that it can only be used once or twice (and only then to imbue some much needed gravitas into a particularly vapid essay

2. Rushing to buy

rushing to buy textbooks
Found the texts which are actually helpful? Take a minute - and walk out of the shop. Buying then and there will almost certainly mean you miss a deal, discount, or simply a better price elsewhere. Instead, head home and bargain hunt like it's daytime TV.

3. Buying without discount

textbooks get a discount

What are you doing?! Stop this immediately.

You should be able to get discount everywhere: Foyles offer 10% student discount in-store (for anyone signing up to their student card), while Waterstones offer 10% online. Amazon are often the cheapest - but save even more using Flubit.

Blackwells is often a first port of call and frustratingly, they don't bother with astudent discount. However, check Top CashBack and Quidco before you buy to pick up a few quid back on your purchases.

4. Not going second hand

Yup, you feel pretty silly right now.

buy secondhand textbooks

Second hand! Gloriously cheap books. How fantastic - except it's not. At least, not always. Buying second hand can be (note: 'can be', not 'is') false economy. If you're on a course which demands updated editions every year, such as law, buying second hand means you'll waste money on what's effectively a useless book.

With this caveat aside, second hand is the place to pick up a bargain, especially if you're looking for additional texts to reference or, even better, for a cramming guide.

Uni departments invariably host an ‘Offload your battered book’ day but if you miss these varsity flea markets, most textbook retailers have a second hand section hidden away (and their websites will do too). Elsewhere, online, try Amazon, Fatbrain, Biblio, Abebooks and SellStudentStuff. Gumtree is home to less savvy sellers, too – which is your chance to barter hard.

5. Getting sucked into the wrong deals

You know the drill. Some chap in a suit of corduroy the colour of sick stands at the front of the lecture hall and tells you he's from the university bookshop and then drones on about a terrific deal you simply have to buy. It actually seems worthwhile. But seriously...

bullshit textbook deals

These deals suck you in. Do you really need the second book? Or are they offloading a paper doorstep onto you and charging extra for the pleasure? Know your figures and question whether both books are indispensable: quite often, the second book is described as an ‘excellent supplement to the course’ or some such nonsense. In effect, because you only really need the first book, these bundles mean you’re overcharged for what you really want and they apologise with a second, useless book.

6. Forgetting online resources

onilne resources

Considering half your life is wasted stalking exs, tweeting about trips, and taking pictures of your meals, it's a tad surprising that the internet gets forgotten sometimes.

Lecturers are rightly fond of pointing out a textbook will only get you so far and it’s likely your online reading will more markedly inform your work; there’s a far greater breadth of material more easily accessible. Use this where you can, and for as little as possible, and it’ll stop you having to shell out for additional, expensive books.

Academic eBooks are rarely much cheaper, if at all, than their paper counterparts. This said, you can download free eBooks at BookBoon, and explore articles using Google Scholar.

If you want a particular book, search it’s title with “.pdf” after it and your search engine should haul a free copy of a text – books as well as journals – to your screen. These are often incomplete versions but perfect when you need only a chapter or two. It’s a great resource for sourcing that extra quote.

7. Holding onto your old books

Once you've lovingly thumbed them through, or used them to keep your desk level, it can be hard to let know. We know.

holding on to old books

Or you're just too lazy. Whichever. Still, pull yourself together and Just Sell Them. It's highly unlikely you'll need them later on in the course.

Of course, it can seem a lot of effort but it needn't be - one of the simplest methods is simply to post your offerings on your course Facebook group. It's the simplest way to get rid of things. Don't hold out on price: when it comes to textbooks, any money is good money and the first offer is the best offer - you may not get another.