As a mentor to incoming students at college, I get many questions involving textbooks and there are always many different ways to answer them because it all depends on preference. In high school, we never had to buy next books and now all of a sudden, we have to figure out how to acquire them on our own. There are several different factors that go into buying textbooks and it vary’s by person. The one thing I noticed, is that there is a common trend when it comes down to certain preferences.
I thought it would be a good idea to take a some of the most commonly asked questions I get and invite a few of my trusted college friends to answer them. This post features answers from Dani at Dani Dearest: a college blogger who I just so happen to go to school with. I would highly suggest checking out her blog in your spare time. We also have some statements from Melanie, a friend for over 6 years, Nikki, one of my roommates from last year and Josh, my boyfriend.
With that being said, lets get started:
BUYING VERSUS RENTING
Dani: Rent. Absolutely rent as a first choice. Go to http://www.BigWords.com/ and type in your textbook name. It instantly compares a ton of sites for you at once so you can find the best price. Hey, sometimes buying is cheaper than renting.. but rarely. Save money. Unless you’re in a specific major in which you know you will want to reference your textbook 5 years down the road.. rent. I’d say that it doesn’t matter if its online or from your college bookstore, go with whatever costs less. Shop around, don’t just settle for whatever you find first.
Melanie: In my opinion you get a better deal renting them. I would highly suggest signing up for Amazon Student or Prime where you can get free shipping which makes it more affordable and very easy.
Tori: 90 percent of the time I rent my books because I find it more affordable I were to own every book, I sure would have a lot of books by the time I have your degree (over 40 at least!). The only reason I would buy a book if it was for a science class that had a lab manual OR certain books involving my major. I personally use Amazon Prime to get my books but I am also a fan of Campus Book Rentals.
Josh: Renting is definitely better. I have had it happen where I have to buy a book because there are no available options to rent and then I am left over with a book that I do not even need.
General Consensus: Rent, Rent, Rent!
Getting the books early VERSUS Waiting until class starts
Dani: I’ll be honest, I rarely use my textbooks. Now I’m sure that’s just me, and the kinds of classes that I take and my major and the way my school works. I have a ton of friends who have to read chapters and chapters in their textbooks every night. I, however, am not that person. I have gone by every semester so far with having at least 2 classes that I have skipped buying the textbook for and it has paid off, 2 that I should have skipped, and 1 that I used.
With that in mind: I highly suggest waiting until your classes start to get your textbooks. However, I suggest more than anything using your best judgement. I take mainly Communication classes, which are more hands on and don’t require much textbook use. However there are definitely specific types of classes, if you are taking Science classes or Math classes for example, which I would definitely recommend getting the book as soon as you can.
But when in doubt, wait. There’s nothing worse than looking back a month into the semester and realizing you wasted $200 on a book you never opened. Melanie: I got most of my books by the first day of class and found out I didn’t need all of them. So I think going to the first class and finding out what you need is better.
Nikki: I like to email my teachers beforehand if their books aren’t online and I rent them before. Even if the teacher doesn’t use the textbook much they’re good to go back to if they aren’t explaining something in a way I understand.
Tori: Personally, I like having my books before class starts. Some classes give reading assignments the first day of class and I don’t like the idea of feeling behind and having to catch back up. Also, if your book is in high demand, the price might go up or it might even be sold out. But, I always check to see if the teacher has uploaded or sent out a syllabus. If they did, check it and see if it says anything about books (which it should). If it is on the syllabus then you should be good to go and there is no need to wait!
Josh: I like to order them a week before class starts but clarification from teachers is key.
General Consensus: Look for specific instruction from teachers so you know what exactly you need before getting the books.
Physical Copies versus E-Book/Online
Dani: I think that having a physical copy versus an e-book really depends on the subject (like a lot of these do.. sorry!) as well as the person. Personally I prefer to have a physical book. However, I took an acting class one time in which our professor gave us iPads for the class to use on stage so we could use the scenes in our textbooks in our hands while we acted. It was great to have the textbook in an e-book format then.
Tori: I am not a fan of online textbooks or e-books. I get so distracted when I am trying on my computer and it is so hard to read. The one class that required it, I hardly did any of the reading because I always ended up doing something else. Also, having a physical copy is so much better because you are able to highlight, add post-its and annotate. When it comes down to it, it depends on what kind of learner you are. For me I learn best though hands-on so naturally, a textbook that I can hold works the best.
Melanie: I like physical copies better because I learn better by being able to highlight and put tabs on the pages.
Josh: In my opinion, both work just fine but each one comes with some cons. Text books can get damaged easy, take up space and are heavy. But when it comes to online, it will become troublesome if Professors as you to annotate them. Typically, Professors do not like the online versions.
General Consensus: In most situations Physical Textbooks are preferred but there are specific instances where an online e-book is the best format.
As you can see, when it comes down to it, every college student has different methods and ideas when it comes to spending money on textbooks. Keep these ideas in mind as you go and try to find what works best for you!
“Finally, overall I just feel that it all depends on three things:
1) your major.
2) your school.
Every major, school, and person works differently. Most importantly, i t depends on how you learn and what works best for you. If you find that you work best with a couple E-book,so be it. If you find that you work best with getting your textbooks for every single class a month ahead of time and filling them to the brim with highlighting and post-it notes?So be it. Whatever gets the grade works.” -Dani Dearest
P.S. A big thank you to Dani, Melanie, Nikki and Josh, as I bombarded them with questions over winter break. Love you all <3