How to Save on Textbooks

Friday, September 6, 2013


Written by Alice Lin

Yes, those things. If you are taking chemistry, psychology, economics, biology, or sociology, you are going to spent at least $100 to $200 for a brand new textbook on each of these classes. (Sure you might qualify for a $150 cheque from the government to help, but wouldn’t you rather blow that on a Thursday night at Trappers? Though I would obviously advise against if you're trying to save.) Check out some of these alternatives to help you save up to 100 per cent of your textbook fees. Note that the projected savings are estimated based on a full-time undergraduate student who is taking 5 courses.

Buy used (from the bookstore)
The most obvious alternative and is probably the worst. Seriously, you might as well just buy a new one because then you could at least make back 50 per cent of your money when you sell it back to the bookstore. However, if the university decides to change to the a different edition of the textbook the next year (or semester), then you're out of luck. Projected savings: $10 - $50 per textbook ($100 - $500 per year).

Buy from the Guelph Campus Co-op Book store
The Guelph Campus Co-op (G.C.C.) store is located in the basement of Johnston Hall. The textbooks offered vary slightly but you can be sure to get what you need at $10 - $50 cheaper than the price at the university bookstore (new & used). You can also opt in to become a member of the G.C.C. for $10 to save an additional 5 per cent discount with them. Plus, you don't have to waste time looking for the book yourself, just tell the staff what you need and they will get it for you. Projected savings: $10 - $60 per textbook ($100 - $600 per year).

Buy online
You'll be surprised at the deals you may find. Sometimes you could find new books for less than the used ones. From my experience, the used textbooks I purchase through Amazon all pretty much have been perfect mint condition. However, it does get tricky if the university decides to make “custom” versions of the textbook for your course. Another online alternative is to check out the 'textbook' section under classified on theCannon.ca. You may even find used textbooks for $10 to $20 cheaper than even the used versions purchased from the bookstore. And if you get one without a used sticker on it, you might even be able to sell it back to the book store for the same price or higher. You can also do that with the books you buy through Amazon. Yes, you could actually make a few dollars. Projected savings: $10 - $100 per textbook ($100 - $1000 per year).

Borrow from the library
Most of the time your professors will put textbooks on reserve for students at the library. These textbooks will be available for you to be signed out for a maximum of 2 hours. The benefit? It's absolutely free. This is a great incentive for you to focus and do your homework in the library. If a textbook isn't on reserve, ask your professor to see if he or she could request to put a couple of copies on reserve for you. If you're somebody that needs the text for more than a couple of hours, then keep reading and check out the next option. Projected savings: 100 per cent.

Borrow from another library through RACER or TUG
So you've read this far, you're interested. This is sort of my secret weapon.  I had not shared this with many others because the more people that do this, the less it's guaranteed that I'll get a textbook myself. But what the heck, sharing is caring. So head on to the library website, search for your textbook and see if your textbook is available at another university. There are two sections to this, explained below:

Borrowing through TUG: This means you are borrowing from either Guelph, Waterloo or Laurier. If you are lucky and get your hands on a textbook from anyone of these locations, you've hit the ultimate jackpot. The textbook can be picked up from the McLaughlin library a few days after you've requested it. You can also renew these textbooks infinitely, until you're done with the course so you'll be able to have it for the entire duration of your course. Provide that others aren't recalling it because they're trying to save money on textbooks as well. Projected savings: 100 per cent.

Borrowing through RACER: Using this method allows you to borrow from universities across Canada. This is possible because sometimes the textbooks for a class in one university may just be a regular book lost on the shelves of another university. However, you have the opportunity to put it to good use for a few weeks. To do this, head to the library website and click on 'interlibrary loans' under the ‘explore our services’ category on the front page. Follow the instructions and select RACER. I would suggest doing this as early as possible so that you allow time for the books to arrive (takes about one to two weeks). You probably shouldn't be hogging the books since you're not really going to read it everyday, but yes, you can take out the same book from multiple Canadian universities to ensure that you have the textbook for the entire semester in case some other stingy student recalls it from you. Projected savings: 100 per cent.

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