Textbook purchasing, reselling don’t have to be a struggle

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

If your semesterly textbook spending spree starts and ends at the Illini Union Bookstore,you’re probably doing it wrong. 

Students have many choices when it comes to procuring textbooks, and if you’re willing to put the time in, you could potentially save yourself (or your parents) a lot of money. The University estimates students will need $1,200 to cover their book and supply costs, but there are ways you can cut that budget in half. 


Do price and course research

Shop around for your textbooks. While one seller may offer the cheapest deal for one of your books, don’t assume that it will be the cheapest option for all the titles you need. Sites like BookFinder.com and RetailMeNot are great resources for discounted books and coupons. 

Along with price research, look for a past syllabus and ask people who have taken the course previously if buying the book is really necessary.


Purchasing options

Purchasing options, from most to least expensive, include buying new, buying used and renting. Purchasing new books allows you complete freedom of use and is often necessary when an extremely recent edition is required for a course. 

Used and rental books can be a bit like Russian roulette: Who knows what mystery notes or over-indulgent highlighting hides within their pages? In many cases, the option exists to directly contact used book sellers to find out the condition of a particular book. 

Many sites also require sellers to list the condition of a used book along with a brief description, these are not foolproof, but they can be useful quality controls. 

Most rental book companies put limits on the amount of writing or highlighting you can do (read their terms and conditions!), which is good in the sense that you’re probably not getting a completely trashed book, but also limits what you will be able to do. Most renters (for example, Amazon) offer flexible rental terms and many cover some or all shipping costs, plus, they remove the hassle of reselling books. 

Additionally, many textbooks are now available as e-books, which are often cheaper and more portable than the physical book. However, you can’t resell e-books nor do they necessarily fit everyone’s studying habits, but they might be something to look into.

Outside of purchasing and renting, many books can be found via the vast array of volumes available in the University’s library system, some texts also exist in the public domain or are otherwise accessible, for free, online. 


Selling considerations

Unless you are renting a textbook, it’s always good to consider your options for making back some of the purchase price once a semester ends. Some establishments, like the Illini Union Bookstore and Amazon, will often offer to buy back books, but at a substantially reduced price. 

Selling books online can be worthwhile if the book is a new edition and in decent condition, but consider shipping costs that online sites often take from sales. A free, locally oriented book-selling resource students might want to consider is illinibookexchange.com.


Suggestions for professors

First, professors should directly and promptly communicate to students the texts needed for a course, whether it be via a syllabus or just a short e-mailed list. Two, they need to define the necessity of texts. 

Saying a book is “required” or “recommended” does not tell the student how much they’ll utilize the book. Three, if a particular text is required only as a means to access a few selections or articles for the course, the instructor should provide citations so students can look for alternate means of access. Finally, if a past edition of a textbook would be acceptable, state so. 


We hope these offer some guidance for developing your own book buying system and, in the long run, cuts down on some of the costs involved with attending the University.