Tips for Buying College Textbooks

The new college season is right around the corner and for most students and parents that means parting with thousands of dollars for tuition, room & board, and textbooks. Scholarships, grants and loans can help with tuition; having children live with parents during college years can help with room & board; however, not all textbooks purchases are created equal. In fact, it is possible to save over 90% off the retail price of textbooks by taking a little extra time and planning ahead.

So how can a student save 90% off the retail price? Think used! The onset of the World Wide Web has opened up new territory for the purchasing of textbooks. Auspiciously this opens the door for students to acquire their needed textbooks easily, in advance, and at a much lesser price than ever before. When buying textbooks it is important to keep four major things in mind; requirements, availability & vendors, condition, and price & purchasing.


You cannot buy the books you need if you do not know what is required for your class. Whether the class is brick and mortar or online it is imperative to find out what books are needed at least 2 weeks prior to the class start. This is very easy to do if the student is taking the class on-line, but can be a bit more difficult for brick and mortar instruction.

On-line universities, such as Capella and Phoenix, allow students to access what textbooks are required months before the class starts. Normally they have a virtual bookstore in which the web surfer can link to the exact class they will be taking. This link provides information on the required textbooks and other materials including title, author, version, and publisher.

However, if you are attending a classroom course, you will have to add a bit more effort into finding out the requirements in advance. If the instructor is listed in the master schedule when choosing the class, the students can check to see if the instructor has a web site for the class. If he or she does, chances are they have the required textbooks listed on the site. If not, send the instructor an email and ask what books are required. If the instructor is not listed in the master schedule, contact the respective department and inquire the instructor’s name and/or the textbook requirements.


Once the textbooks requirements are known the student must find out availability and the vendors who sells the book. All brick and mortar colleges have a university bookstore in addition to off-campus bookstores. Required textbooks are usually in stock for purchase without waiting. A call to the bookstore or visiting their website will give availability. These bookstores carry new and used books.

There are several online resources for textbooks which the author recommends; they are

These sites are easy to use and searches can be completed using ISBN, title and/or author. When making a purchase from or buying a used book at, keep in mind that you are not buying directly from website; you are making the purchase from a third party and the host website is only acting as an interface. The host website acts as an intermediary and makes a profit by charging the seller of the book a commission.

There are several things to keep in mind when ordering textbooks from third parties on and and other such sites; delivery time and seller rating.

Delivery Time

When a student places an order at, the seller has 2 days to confirm the order. Once the order is confirmed, the seller has 2 days to ship the textbook. At Amazon, the order is placed immediately and the seller is expected to ship within 2 days. It is important to keep these processing times in mind and this is the main reason to identify classroom textbook needs 2 to 3 weeks in advance. In addition to the processing time involved with ordering books, most sellers default to mailing books via media mail which is cost effective but can take up to 21 days to arrive. Many sellers offer shipping upgrades at an additional cost for students who want to receive their purchases in a timelier manner.

Not all books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble are sold by a third party; many books are sold directly by the store. These books can be shipped overnight if needed.

Seller Rating

Every web site (such as the two listed above), have some way to rate seller and buyers. Usually this is done through a feedback system. The buyer and seller have the opportunity to leave the appropriate rating (favorable, unfavorable, neutral, or somewhere in between) once they have completed the transaction. As a buyer, it is important to read the seller’s feedback to see if they have a consistent delivery history. Sellers that frequently cancel orders or have late delivery should be avoided. Do not be troubled if a seller has an occasional negative feedback for later delivery. As previously mentioned, many sellers send your purchase via media mail and it may take longer than the buyer expected (and thus the buyer leaves the negative feedback). Use common sense when reading the seller’s feedback. Always leave the appropriate feedback (good, bad or ?) once the transaction is complete.


Now the student needs to decide if he or she wants to purchase a new or used book. New books are just that, new. Usually still in the shrink wrap, clean and crisp. Used book may have some marks, wear and/or highlighting. If you can overlook these blemishes, than used books are for you. If not, you will have to pay the extra money for a new edition. Many sellers give detailed descriptions of the book’s condition and the buyer can frequently buy used book in excellent shape with no wear or highlighting.


Let us get toÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½the nitty-gritty. This is where, with a little advance planning, you can save some serious cash. Let’s look at the following book as an example.

� Information Systems Management in Practice (5th Edition) by Barbara C. McNurlin, Ralph H. Sprague (Hardcover)

Amazon carries this new book (direct from Amazon) for $130. The Cappella University bookstore (on-line university) wants $135 for the book. Barnes and Noble wants $124.

The same book can be obtained, used, at Barnes and Noble (.com) for $88.79 (a 32% savings). It can be purchased used from or for $2.99 in very good condition. Keep in mind that you will have to add $2 to $3 for shipping media mail and up to $10 (or more) for priority or overnight shipping. However, it is well worth the postage to receive the book at 90% or more savings.


Do not forget that you can sell your books when the class is complete. First, decide if it is prudent to keep the book for further reference. If you decide not to keep it, place it up for sale at Sometimes you can receive the original purchase price back, less the commission, when you sell your used books!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × = 18