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Buying Textbooks For School? Here’s What You Need To Know.


Purchasing textbooks can be pretty stressful. Depending on your program, one book can set you back a couple hundred dollars and yet, if you don’t purchase the course’s required text, you risk jeopardizing your marks. When you add in the fact that there are many different types of textbooks to choose from, that shopping trip becomes even more daunting.

Unsure of your textbook type? Here are a few questions to ask yourself so you can pick the perfect one.

Should you buy a new or used textbook?

The answer really depends on your personal financial situation. Whether the textbook is new or used really has no impact on its content. If you can afford new textbooks, by all means purchase new textbooks. If you want to save a little bit of money, used textbooks are definitely the way to go. Keep in mind that if you’re going to sell the textbooks afterwards, new textbooks, if they’re in a nice condition, are often easier to sell.

You may want to consider whether there are any markings on the pages. If you are the type of student who highlights their textbooks and writes notes in the margins, you should avoid purchasing textbooks that have already been written in. The previous owner’s annotations may conflict with what you want to highlight and mark. On the other hand, if you don’t care about markings, then these used textbooks are often cheaper than ones that have not been written in.

Should you buy a physical textbook or an e-textbook?

Laptops and tablets have increasingly become indispensable tools for today’s students. The idea of e-textbooks is appealing because physical copies are so heavy and a mobile device can store multiple e-textbooks without any additional weight. The cost of an e-textbook is definitely less than that of a physical edition, but there are some disadvantages.

First, you don’t technically own the e-textbook: it’s not a freely accessible file like a PDF that you can copy or send to friends. Some sellers will give you a unique access code (that is only good for a certain period of time) so you have to go to their website and enter this code every time you want to access the book contents. Other sellers, like Amazon, allow you to purchase the digital copy but you can only read it with their proprietary technology, such as the Kindle app. In both cases, you cannot resell your e-textbook because your access is expired or because the purchase is linked to your personal account.

If you are still interested in purchasing an e-textbook, start with purchasing the e-textbook for one of your courses (and use physical copies for the rest of your courses). It is important to have this trial period to see if you can study as well using a e-textbook as you do with a physical textbook. Some students dislike using e-textbooks because they’re reading them on mobile devices so it’s easy to get distracted by email notifications, games, YouTube, etc. It will take time for you to adjust your study style to e-textbooks. After this trial period, evaluate how well you learned using a digital textbook and then decide whether you want to purchase any more e-textbooks.

At this moment, it seems that e-textbooks have more disadvantages than advantages. Purchasing a physical textbook is recommended, although if you really want to use an e-textbook, purchase it for an elective course.

Should you buy or rent a textbook?

This question is only applicable if your school’s bookstore offers you the option of renting a textbook. If they do, find out all the details. Are you allowed to highlight the pages, make notes? Will you be penalized if you damage the book in some way (for example, coffee stains, cracked spines, etc.)? You want to ask these questions to see if you can treat the textbook as if it were your own for the rental period of time.

Determine exactly how much renting a textbook is going to cost you. Take into consideration not just the rental cost over the period of time you need the textbook for, but also check to see if there are any penalties for damage or for late returns! Add all those possible fees together and if this overall cost is almost the cost of a textbook, then you are better off buying the textbook. That way, you can sell the textbook afterwards to recoup some of your money.

Renting a textbook is ideal in situations where the rental fee is much lower than the cost of buying a textbook and if the textbook is for an elective course and will likely never be used in your studies again. Otherwise, you should consider purchasing your own copy.

A textbook is a major investment whether you rent, buy, or download. Take a second to ask yourself these questions to ensure you pick the right option for you.

What’s your favourite kind of textbook? Let us know in the comments!