Tips and tricks for the thrifty textbook shopper

Madison Taylor -Culture Editor

Every university student is all too familiar with the feeling of paralyzing fear that accompanies adding up the yearly cost of their textbooks. Depending on which program you’re in, the bill could add up to anywhere from a month’s worth of groceries to a down-payment on a car. Students have grinned and bore this as an unavoidable part of the university experience for decades — but does it really have to be this way?

When shopping for textbooks, the first destination that comes to mind is naturally the University Bookstore. Conveniently located on campus and stocked with every required text on every professor’s syllabus, it really does seem like the best option — this is how they lure you in. I myself have fallen victim to this tactic more than once, shelling out $150 for a book that I later realized I could have bought used for $20. Needless to say, textbook buying has come with a twinge of self-loathing ever since.

The University of Saskatchewan Student’s Union has made strides towards providing more affordable options. The open-textbook program is in the works, hoping to offer cheaper digital copies of the university’s textbook list online for both computers and mobile devices in the near future. 

In the meantime, what options are out there for students?

Amazon has been a popular choice for textbook buyers since the early 1990s, offering well over a million textbooks from major retailers and private sellers alike — and just in time for the new school year, Amazon Student is available as a six month free trial that allows the subscriber unlimited free two-day shipping. With textbooks available at nearly half their original price and the option to resell them when the semester wraps up, Amazon certainly makes a good argument for the thrifty student.

As far as more obscure options go, there are plenty of other places in the webisphere to purchase your required readings. 

For you environmentalists out there, the website Chegg plants a tree every time you order books from them — pretty adorable, right? On top of that, they offer fast delivery, a rental option and free shipping on any order over $85. Buying textbooks never felt so good!

Another independent online textbook site is RentText, who — as their name implies — deal primarily with textbook rentals. Bookbyte is also a reputable option, as they have been buying and selling used texts from students across the continent since 1999.

If you prefer buying your textbooks in person, Books Unlimited is certainly worth a gander. A little hole-in-the-wall bookstore located at 1402 College Drive — just across the street from the university — it carries a horde of up-to-date editions of used textbooks. One of the biggest perks of Books Unlimited is the fact that they will even buy back the used textbooks that they sold to you the previous semester for resale and allow you to set your own prices.

Another Saskatoon-based bookseller that accommodates the broke student population is Turning The Tide, an independent bookstore nestled just off Broadway Avenue. Turning The Tide offers a textbook order service that ships your books to the store at a discounted price — so shoppers save some cash and support a local business in the process.

In the spirit of buying local, why not keep your textbook transactions within the university community itself? Through the Buy/Sell Used Textbooks from the U of S Facebook page, students can put up their own books for sale or scour the newsfeed for used ones. The amount of posts and bartering back and forth has resulted in the page becoming a kind of miniature Kijiji, making the likelihood of finding what you need fairly high. 

The best approach to take towards textbook buying is to channel Ebenezer Scrooge and keep those purse strings tight. University is one of the few times in life when being stingy is a virtue, so why not save up that extra money you would have spent on textbooks for something closer to your heart — whether that be a new car, a puppy, or a case of beer, no one’s judging here.

Graphic: Stephanie Mah/Graphics Editor

  • mandr

    this is amazing
    thank you for writing this