Monday, January 14, 2008

Cheap Textbooks

So, the textbook buying season just passed, and the usual feelings of outrage and despair, coupled with desire to throw a few pounds of explosives at the school bookstore, have passed.

This year there was actually a little less pain then in years before, due to a pretty cool website I found, textbook price comparison

Even though this is a great website, there were still significant challenges in the quest to find my textbooks for a less tear-inducing, anger-causing price. At you can find the lowest price for your book, but only if you know the author and title, or the full ISBN number. And of course, the miserable BYU bookstore provides neither piece of critical information.

Here are a couple tricks that I employed to find the necessary clues.

1. As soon as you register for classes, go to the BYU booklocker and look up what books people are trading for your class. This can be somewhat helpful, although there are usually a few different books/editions for the same class.

2.Email around. I was lucky enough to be in quite a few classes as a lot of people in my major, so I could email around and ask if anyone had taken my classes before, and if they had information on the books that were required. Sometimes this is helpful, other times you will only get replies saying that someone has the books, and will sell them to you, but not give you any of the information. I politely declined.

3.Wait for the bookstore to post the information a few days before school starts. This is pretty much the worst option. Not only does the bookstore wait till the last minute to post any info on your books, the info that they do finally put up is not helpful at all. Abbreviated titles and authors, and lack of anything close to an ISBN make it impossible to find your books anywhere but at the overpriced campus bookstore. This really only leaves you one option.

4.Snoop around in the bookstore. Although the bookstore cannot post your book information online more then a few days before classes due to "the teachers haven't decided on which book to choose yet", they are somehow able to magically put the physical books on the actual shelves in the store. How do they do this? No one knows. This leaves the fearless hero with the opportunity to wander around in the bookstore with pen and paper hidden from the book Nazis, and hastily scribble ISBN numbers down when the Gestapo's attention is diverted. If you are unsuccessful, you will be "escorted" out of the bookstore, but if you do manage to smuggle the information out, you can go to the above website and save a bundle of cash.

After following these four steps, I managed to save almost $500 on my textbooks this semester. True, some of my books are only legal to possess in India or Bangladesh, but whats life without a little risk?