I can’t believe it’s August already! It seems like just yesterday that I was walking across the stage on graduation day. But alas, I’ve received my first email from Stevenson University informing me that I have to complete an online tutorial class before I can take my actual online class that begins on August 25th.
Let me indulge myself and go on a mini-rant. First of all, the “actual” online class that I’m taking at SU this fall is an Advanced Microsoft Office course. Please note that this class covers the material that I practically teach and grade as an instructional technician at the community college. The fact that I have to take this class is kind of silly, but SU uses a slightly different textbook and it will hopefully be 3 “easy credits.”
Anyway, as annoying as it is, I do like the fact that you have to take a tutorial class before being eligible for online courses at SU. The tutorial covers all of the basics of online learning, shows you how to access your courses, outlines general expectations, and basically eliminates any excuses that a student might try to use while enrolled in an online class. As a TA, I’m really impressed. I hope my community college considers a similar protocol in the future.
As part of the tutorial, I learned how to access the university bookstore and figure out what textbooks my courses require. The nerd in me was pretty excited. I started jotting down textbooks and prices and by the time I finished, my jaw dropped: $880 for one semester’s worth of textbooks. Yikes.
Luckily the textbook price tag doesn’t get me too worked up anymore. It’s figured into my budget and my financial aid package. I also have a system for deciding where and how to get my hands on each textbook. I realize that this has come from a lot of research and that this time of year is stressful for a lot of people, so I’ve decided to make it the topic of today’s Five for Friday post!
5 Things To Do When Faced With Buying College Textbooks:
- Visit your university bookstore. This can usually be done online and I recommend using this option (you don’t have bookstore staff breathing down your neck and pressuring you to BUY NOW). You type in the course code and it will list the required textbook(s). Write down the title, author, edition, and ISBN. Then write down the price for new and used versions, as well as availability.
- Some classes will have textbooks, workbooks, or software that is exclusive to your university. Pay close attention because you’ll want to purchase these materials directly from the university bookstore!
- Go on Amazon. Type in the ISBN for each textbook.
- Write down the cost of new and used versions of your textbooks.
- Amazon also offers some textbooks for rental. Write down this price as well.
- Some books are available as Kindle ebooks (and some you can even rent as Kindle ebooks). Write down these prices too!
- If you have an iPad, log into the iBooks store. The iBooks store doesn’t have as large of a selection of textbooks, but it is growing at a steady pace and they do offer some books that aren’t available as a Kindle edition. Type in the ISBN. Write down the price.
- Keep in mind that you can also open PDF documents in iBooks for easy reading!
- Visit a few textbook sell-back websites (ValoreBoks, TextbookRush, SellBackYourBook, etc). Type in the ISBN. Write down how much money you would get if you were to sell the textbook back at the end of the semester. But remember, these prices can change drastically over the next 4 months (especially if a new edition of the book is released).
- There is a handy app called BookScouter that you can download to your phone. You can either scan the book barcode or type in an ISBN number. The app will search the top textbook resellers and tell you exactly how much each site is paying for the book. Most of these sites offer free shipping, too. So it’s almost hassle free!
- Weigh the pros and cons. Everyone is different (and so is every book, class, and professor for that matter).
- New v. Used: I used to hate the idea of a used book, but the price difference is huge. As long as it’s readable and not too marked up, I’m definitely willing to purchase a used book at this point in my college career.
- Purchase v. Rent: I also used to hate the idea of renting a textbook. I like to highlight and write in my books. But they make highlighters with ink that vanishes after time and post-it notes are a wonderful invention as well. If you rent an ebook, you can use the highlighting and note taking tool as much as you want! However, if the book is one you know you will want to use in the future, by all means purchase!
- Print v. eBook: I’m a bookworm, so I will always have a special place in my heart for books in print. I also firmly believe that there are certain classes that warrant having a physical book. But I nearly always prefer the etext version of books for college courses. Those suckers are big and heavy. I take my iPad mini with me everywhere. It even fits in my purse. I’m much more likely to read a few pages of my textbook while sitting in the waiting room, in between classes, or before meeting a friend for coffee when it’s loaded onto my iPad. I also love the search feature. No more skimming the book for that elusive term; just type it in the search box and go. Plus it saves my back a lot of pain, which automatically reduces the stress in my life. Don’t be fooled, though. Ebooks aren’t necessarily much cheaper than print; the authors and publishers still need to get paid for their work/services. They’re usually cheaper than a new book but more expensive than a used one. To me, it’s usually worth it anyway.
If the text is available for rent as an ebook, I will ALWAYS go this way (unless prohibited by the school or professor). It’s usually the cheapest, lightest, and most sensible way to go. Amazon will even offer you a discounted price towards the end of your rental to permanently purchase the book if you decide it’s something you want to hang on to.