By Curtis Wolff —
Buying textbooks is the most crooked market this side of the subprime mortgage crisis. Since the consumer — that’s you — doesn’t get to choose the product, textbook publishers can set disproportionately high prices. These are the alternatives to buying new textbooks that keep your coffers full for other university activities, like drinking at the Den, drinking in residence and drinking in public.
Buy used at the U of C Bookstore
This is the easiest alternative to buying new. Reach a few feet over from those shiny new editions to the less pretty and less expensive — but equally informative — used copies. Used copies at the University of Calgary Bookstore are around 20 per cent cheaper than the new ones. Try to find one that someone has marked up with a highlighter. This means they’ve done some work for you, and if they’ve made it past the first few chapters, they probably knew what they were doing.
Buy used at Bound & Copied
Take a stroll down the hall from the U of C Bookstore to the Students’ Union-run Bound & Copied. They sell used textbooks via consignment and are normally cheaper than the used copies at the bookstore. That means more money in your pocket, some other student’s pocket and the SU’s pocket. You can even sell your textbooks back at the end of the semester and keep the scheme going. Taking a slice of profit away from our university and publisher overlords — Marx would be proud.
Buy used on the Facebook group
If you want to ditch the middleman altogether, there’s a Facebook group called Used Textbooks for Sale (University of Calgary). It’s a fairly active forum for both buyers and sellers. Either post what you’re looking to buy or browse through the past few months worth of posts. I’m trying to sell some textbooks on there right now, so not only is it a great way to buy cheap books but also a great place to meet cool people. Seriously though, I’ve been trying to sell this global politics textbook on there for years. Help a brother out.
Look for an older edition online
Can you spot the difference between the eighth and ninth editions of a textbook? Me neither. Hop on Amazon and buy an old edition, as long as you don’t mind navigating through the different page numbers. If you’re lucky, some professors will even provide page numbers for different versions of the textbook to help smart shoppers like yourself.
Reserved section at the library
The library keeps many popular textbooks on reserve and you can book them for a couple hours at a time, which is all the time you’ll need to catch up on the last few weeks of reading. If you’re unsure how often you’ll actually use the textbook, but are anxious about not having access to it at all, this option is for you. This is the most overlap you’re going to get between free and legal.
Steal them from the Internet
You kids with your “torrents” and your “memes” and your “Internet.” I don’t know how any of that shit works. But your buddy’s weird roommate who’s majoring in computer science probably does. Check your morals at the door and see if they can hook you up on the “down-load.” Your mileage may vary depending on your major, as most arts students aren’t planning on scanning and uploading entire books out of spite. Math and computer science students will have far more luck.
Actually just steal them
You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a — oh wait, you would? Perfect. Stealing things online is for nerds. Try stealing your textbook in person. Mind those theft-sensing devices at the door and remember that it’s only a crime if you get caught.
Don’t read them
You know what else is for nerds? Reading. You may consider buying those textbooks, but you’re not actually going to read them. I sure didn’t. You’ll be just fine. My global politics textbook is one of the exceptions. You should definitely buy it.