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Turn to page 394: Escaping Textbook Hell

If you are reading this post then it is simply too late… The textbook monster has already swallowed your money, your time and your patience. You can only hope that next quarter will be better.

You’ll already be getting way too much advice this Welcome Week, but what you won’t learn is the best place to buy and sell your textbooks. Usually you will be forced to fight your way through store after store and Web site after Web site. Luckily, this is where I come in… read this and you can be saved.

First things first:

Before you buy textbooks you need to figure out what books you actually need. Use the Ohio State Book Store Web site (ohiostate.bncollege.com). Their Web site has a textbook tracker that allows you to put in the name and section of your class and easily find the necessary textbooks. But be warned… Professors are not infallible and sometimes put in the wrong book code. One of my friend’s book for physics was listed as “A Textbook for Beginning Arabic,” and another friend’s biology 101 book is listed as “Icelandic for the Masses.”

Before buying any book, e-mail your professors. They don’t bite. In most cases your professor will actually be impressed that you made an effort to find their e-mail and find out about your books. Finally, make sure you have the right book, edition and any all DVDs/CDs that should go with it.

Online Options:

After spending nearly three years of my life hunting for better book deals, I find myself constantly returning to three sites.

1. Amazon

The Amazon list price is almost always cheaper than the bookstore price (even including shipping). Also, if you buy the official Amazon version of your textbook, you can receive free shipping and still get your book in three to four days. This means no lines, no hassle and definitely no having to carry heavy books back through the rain.

If you are feeling more adventurous, then you can usually find good new and used books listed by third-party sellers. In most cases “Like New” or “Very Good” actually means I can’t tell the difference between this book and a new copy. The only difference is the price. Third-party sellers usually list “Like New” books at a $10-20 (if not more) discount. Why waste another $20 on a book you are only going to use once? Just be sure to check the shipping origin for the seller (i.e. don’t pick a book seller that ships from Mexico or the UK) and always check the seller’s rating. The price might be slightly more for a highly rated seller but it honestly is well worth it.

Selling on Amazon is just as easy. Create a seller’s account, search for and list your books, set a price and then sit back and relax. The Amazon system will walk you through adding direct deposit and any details you need to know. If you can actually get your books sold on Amazon then you will usually net more money than if you had sold them on High Street.

2. Half.com

What you lose in reliability and browsing selection you more than make up for in good deals and simplicity. It is not uncommon to find your textbooks listed at 40% or even 50% off. Be warned, there are scammers on haf.com. Make sure you pay particular attention to the textbook quality, rating and origin before buying.

Selling is once again, extremely easy. Simply type in your book’s ISBN number or title and begin listing comments, price, etc. If you already have an eBay account then you will automatically have a half.com account, but will still need to create separate seller registrations.

3. Facebook

If you are too busy to register with a new site then use your Facebook. Facebook’s marketplace provides a convenient forum for buying and selling textbooks. Although the usability leaves something to be desired, it is important to remember that often the people selling or buying are you friends and are (hopefully) more reliable.

Tomorrow, I’ll highlight how to get away without ever laying down a dime on a textbook.

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