Try to avoid getting them from campus. Even if they have an appealing buyback and/or reward program.
Here are my tips for cheap textbooks/required readings for class:
- Bulletin Boards on Campus/Past Students of the Class. It’s not always a guarantee they’ll have the edition you need, but you can always ask the prof/instructor if you can use the last edition. Also, it saves you time and shipping than getting them online, especially if peeps are local.
- Rent them. We live in the future. Renting is an option. There are a bunch of great rental sites: Chegg will plant a tree for every book you get, Skyo and BookRenter often works with local bookstores for drops/pickups. BigWords is also a great one. Google around a bit!
- Biblio.com. Seriously, they are the one purveyor I recommend most to everyone I know. Not only can you get rare and out-of-print books, but all the sellers are independent.
- AddALL.com. Another great resource that gives you all kinds of great options, but mostly deals with the Big Wigs (Amazon, Half.com, B&N, etc).
- BetterWorldBooks.com. These people are amazing. Not only do they do novels, they also do textbooks. Even better, they donate one book for every one you purchase.
- SwapTree. Great little website where all you need to do is pay shipping.
- BookMooch. Similar concept, but working with “points.”
And now for the free resources!
- Your Local Library. Seriously, why would you not check this first? Sometimes even the campus has multiple copies for loaning or same-day reads, but check your local library first. And if they don’t have the book you’re looking for, go talk to a Librarian. They can get it for you, one way or another. That’s what they’re there for: to be a resource for you.
- Project Gutenberg. Free online ebooks. Yeah, they might be dated, but you know what? Shut up. Free is free.
- Librivox.com. If you’re of the audiobook persuasion. Great if you want to get your reading in and, say, do a lot of bouncy cardio at the same time.
- The Online Books Page. Run by some Penn state peeps.
- Open Culture. Not a large a selection, but high quality texts. If you just want to skim a book to brush up on a course you took in ninth grade, download one of these. I have yet to be disappointed.
- Book Boon. Provides free college-level textbooks in a PDF format. Probably the widest range of subjects on the web. The site is also pretty.
- Flat World Knowledge. The worlds largest publisher of free and open college textbooks. Humanitie texts are particularly difficult to come by, this site has a great selection in all disciplines.
- Textbook Revolution. Some of the books are PDF files, others are viewable online as e-books, or some are simply web sites containing course or multimedia content.
- Library Pirate. When this site opened a few months ago, I went a little overboard. After dropping two hundred large on a paperback spanish textbook, I downloaded the ebook version. It will be interesting to see how this site grows — they already have a great selection.
I’m sure there’s more out there, but that’s just a couple resources I go through every quarter.