Cut your costs on textbook purchases


The costs of textbooks can add up fast. When added with the other costs of college — tuition, meal plan, booze, Fat Sandwich (the list goes on) — it makes sense to minimize what you can, and it just so happens that it is very easy to get cheap textbooks. 

As a freshman, you may feel obliged to buy your textbooks at the Illini Union Bookstore. The razzle! The dazzle! The new Starbucks within! No one will stop you from paying full retail prices on books (especially not the University), but there are much cheaper places to buy books — namely, the Internet. 

Your first step will be to land on the Illini Union Bookstore’s homepage at At the top of the screen, there will be a hyperlink reading “BUY” to the right of an orange box reading “TEXTBOOKS.” Click this and you will be led to the bookstore’s comparison shopping app. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the bookstore’s price comparison, but I can tell you that this app is very helpful in finding assigned textbooks for the classes you’ve registered for before the syllabus is released. If you have to wait until the syllabus is released to buy your textbooks, online shopping (with cheap shipping) is pretty much out the window.

Once you check the books you’ll need for all your classes, look up the ISBN on or a similar website — Half, an eBay website, just happens to be my favorite. This ISBN is unique to each edition and variation of a book, so it should lead you to the book you will need for class. Once you search the code, a list of sellers with the book in varying conditions will come up — some of these results shockingly cheap. There’s nothing more validating than getting a $70 book for $10. I usually purchase on the lower-end of condition because I honestly don’t care if my Calculus book has a bit of wear — in fact, I think it adds a bit of character. 

But what if a book has a one-use online code that you must purchase for classwork? Have no fear — you can usually still purchase the book secondhand while buying the online code separately and for cheaper. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy that code directly from the publisher. What a racket. Just make sure to confirm that you will need the online code for the class before you purchase it. 

Keep in mind that sometimes professors do change required books by the time Syllabus Week rolls around, but I’ve never purchased the wrong books online before. Maybe I’m just lucky. 

Several months later, and the semester is already coming to a close. You’ve earned a grade of 100 percent in all your courses, and you’re a superstar freshman looking to make a quick buck. 

You can now throw your hat back into this grand capitalist scheme and sell your books back to others. You can resell them on the Internet, but I usually just use a website called Illini Book Exchange. On this website, University of Illinois students can upload the books they have, specify the price, and then hand them off to a new owner on campus. It’s that easy. You could also use Illini Book Exchange to buy your textbooks instead of Half if you’re under a time crunch, since you don’t need to wait for shipping. 

So, now you’re saving money on buying textbooks, and you might even be making money selling them back to fools on campus. Use this knowledge for the good of mankind and be sure to treat your friends to a round of drinks/several Fat Sandwiches/brand spankin’ new campus McDonalds meal with your newfound wealth. 

Tyler is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAllynDavis.