College Textbook Buying Mistakes


As an incoming freshman, you’re under enough pressure, from choosing the right classes to surviving dorm life. Who has time to comparison shop for college textbooks? It’s tempting to go all-out with your (or your parents’) credit card at the campus bookstore. But when you’re hit with a $600 bill for textbooks, that spring break trip you’d been looking forward to suddently starts to look a lot less attainable. We asked four current undergrads and recent alums for advice, and their consensus is to shop early and shop online. Here are the stories of their college textbook-buying woes and their top tips to spare you headaches and save you money:

Alan Zeng, CUNY Baruch College ’10: “Buying online is the most sensible choice for most students nowadays. The main problems are the accuracy of the book listing (i.e. volume number, condition, etc.) and shipping. Most of the online stores support expedited shipping, but if you choose ground, it could take weeks for you receive your order. If a class really requires the book, you’ll will be behind in coursework due to sluggish shipping. To avoid this, buy from reputable vendors that are known for mass textbook-selling, such as, and”

Ashley Singh, Georgian Court University ’10: “One mistake I made was not double- and triple-checking the ISBN numbers and the edition of the books that were required for the course. This is important because if you don’t pay attention, you have to go to the trouble of returning the book and scavenging for the right one.”

Vlada Reznikova, School of Visual Arts ’10: “The biggest mistake you can make is buying a textbook you need just for one semester and buying it new at full price. Some used textbooks are in perfect condition and they cost 30% of the actual price. is an amazing website, the textbooks I got from there were like totally new.”

Amanda Winters, Ithaca College ’07: “These are the top three college textbook buying mistakes:

  1. Sometimes the seller of a used book doesn’t really say how used it is: missing pages can make for some fast reading but really bad paper citations.
  2. Shipping: sometimes you can receive your book days after it’s been assigned to to use in class, so plan ahead. If you need overnight shipping for emergency reading, the money you were trying to save goes out the window!
  3. Be careful with editions: there are usually variations between third, fourth, fifth, etc. that can mix you up and hurt your work.

Photo courtesy of wohnai

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