Be Book Smart: Info for students
Textbooks are one of the largest expenses for students after tuition, rent and food. 80% of students at the University of Alberta think they’re paying too much for textbooks, shelling out an estimated $1750 per year. Over 75% of students have chosen not to buy textbooks due to costs.
Students and instructors can work together to help reduce the burden of high textbook costs. Information for instructors can be found here.
Before You Look
Search the net for free options. Open Access materials, books in the public domain, and other online resources are widely available at no cost. Try the Gutenberg project, or your favourite search engine. The internet public library is not longer being updated but may still be useful.
Talk to your Professors about their course materials
Professors are the primary decision-makers when it comes to your textbooks. Ask them if they have ever thought of using alternative materials such as; customized course packs, reading lists, or Open Educational Resources (OERs). An OER is a Free, Online resource for students and Faculty which can be built or modified specifically for your course in order to better tie in with course content. Most importantly ask your professor how often you’ll use the textbook throughout the course or your degree.
Find out if the course textbooks are mandatory
Some courses will have optional textbooks. It’s worth asking your Professor or your peers if the book is mandatory before you buy it. Check in with your friends who have taken the course and see how much they used the textbook.
Before You Buy
Borrow from the Library
The University of Alberta Library has many of the required course textbooks available for short term loan, or online. They also have books on every academic subject out there. Check their online resources, and if they don't have a copy of the book you’re looking for you can always submit a request to add the textbook to their collection. It may be worth searching up individual chapters for some textbooks as often chapters can be published as papers by themselves! Another option is to try the Edmonton Public Library.
Share with a Friend
Why not buy your book and share it with a friend in the same section? It cuts your costs in half, and gives you someone to study with. If you both need the book at the same time, you can make photocopies of the sections you need.
Ask About Older Editions
There may not be a substantial difference between previous editions and the one you’re supposed to buy. Ask your professor if you can use an old edition and if they can provide you with page numbers or required content from the newer edition. Publishers have a financial incentive to constantly produce new editions, as it helps limit used textbook sales, but constantly revised textbooks may not be necessary for all your classes. This website actually compares different textbook editions that you can check out.
Before You Break the Bank
Buying and selling used books is a great way to keep costs low and give money back to other students. You can try local used book stores, the U of A Bookstore, and secondhand Marketplaces like Facebook and Kijiji. Check prices if you're required to purchase access codes separately, though, as sometimes publishers bundle them with new textbooks to reduce the value of used books.
Buy from a Classmate
It’s likely that a U of A student has already taken your class, and is selling the book that you need at a low price. Check the campus bulletin boards, the UASU Used Book Registry, the UAlberta Used Books Facebook page, Books2Go, or Faculty Association used book sales. Or put a call out on Facebook or Twitter to see if anyone has an old copy they don’t want any more.
Try an eBook
Save on paper! Check Campus eBookstore, Amazon, Google Books, Google Play, VitalSource, or Kobo for eBooks. Be careful, though, eBooks may not always be cheaper, and some rentals may expire before your course is over.
The Bookstore at the U of A isn’t the only place you can buy your textbooks. Check out the websites and prices of a few competitors first. Online retailers like Amazon, AbeBooks and eBay often have lower prices. You can also try Indigo / Chapters / Coles, or even a bookstore at another University in the city. Some textbooks can even be purchased directly from the publisher, so check their website, too. It may also be worthwhile to email the author if you can find their contact information! Oftentimes authors would love to share their work if you ask.
$1750 can go a long way. On a tight student budget, $1750 could pay for more than 800 cups of coffee... or a new laptop computer. Let us help you save money!