Should You Buy Your College Textbooks at the Campus Bookstore?

textbooks campus bookstore

College textbooks are going to be expensive, no matter where you get them from. But you can significantly reduce how much you pay by digging into the Internet a little more than the average college student. Deciding whether to get your books at your campus bookstore or off campus can seem like a hard decision if you haven’t had to before, but I promise it’s a breeze.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that saving 20 or 30 bucks on textbooks can actually make a big difference — I mean that’s like two dinners out or a couple drinks at the bar. So, let me help you save some money and get high-quality textbooks for the next however many years you’re in school.  Here’s what to consider when choosing where to buy your textbooks and the advantages of each option.

Things to Consider Before Buying Your Textbooks

If you want to take a play out of my book, follow these steps when purchasing your textbooks. First, I go to my campus bookstore website and figure out exactly which textbooks I’m going to need for the semester (I mean, duh, you can’t really do anything before that). While I’m there, I note their prices for the textbooks in a Google Doc or on a sheet of paper. After that, I go to Amazon and look up each book to see if (mainly) it’s even available on Amazon — and if it is how much they charge. Then, I go to another textbook website like AbeBooks, Textbook Rentals, or Campus Books and see what their prices are for textbooks. Finally, I compare the prices and get the cheapest textbook I can.

You should also consider the fact that some professors won’t use the textbooks that are supposedly “required” — this actually happens way more than it should. I’ve gotten pretty good at discerning whether or not a textbook is going to be used — for example, you’re always going to have to buy your math book — but in the event that you’re not, you might want to wait until school actually starts to get your textbooks. Syllabus week is a great time to feel out your classes and ask your professors which textbooks you’ll actually need.

When to Buy Textbooks at the Campus Bookstore

Buying on campus can be better for a few reasons. The biggest pro (in my opinion) is that you can pick up your textbooks in-person when you get to school which is super convenient. Getting your textbooks from the campus bookstore also helps when there are errors with your order — so instead of having to be on the phone for hours at a time trying to fix a problem, you can just walk across campus and get things settled. You don’t have to worry about your textbooks getting lost in the mail since you’ll be picking them up yourself (although there’s also an option to have them sent to you instead) — and you don’t have to ship books back if you rent.

Aside from the above pros, sometimes you’re just going to have to buy certain textbooks from the campus bookstore. This could be because you can’t find it cheaper somewhere else or that it’s specifically for your college (which is hella annoying, just saying). There’s nothing that you can do about this, so if you’re like me and prefer to not buy from the school, you’re just going to have to suck it up. The only other time that I would say you should buy from the campus bookstore is when you’re required to buy a novel or something like that, simply because it’s usually cheaper from the school. Just because I like to avoid purchasing textbooks at the campus bookstore doesn’t mean that you have to as well, but I urge you to look at all your options before making that decision.

When to Buy Textbooks Off Campus

Purchasing your textbooks off campus is usually cheaper, so that’s a huge advantage — I’m also am a little sour about colleges sucking money out of us like leeches so I try to do all I can to keep them from getting my money, but that’s beside the point. On top of that, while this might be a disadvantage for some, I love having packages delivered to my house. And I usually order electronic textbooks anyway (trying to save the earth and all) and often times the campus bookstore doesn’t offer an online version of whatever textbook I need.

I suggest you definitely do your research and if you can get a better deal on a textbook that you need from an outside source, do it. I’ve also never really had problems with textbooks getting lost or damaged during shipping — although I’m aware that it could happen. Especially if you’re ordering from Amazon, you’re going to get excellent customer service. Where you get your textbooks really boils down to individual preference, so figure out what you want and stick to it.

Follow Anna on Instagram: @annamariedepoyster

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