For those of you heading to college later this year, here’s a tip on saving money on your textbooks: shop around. Go to Half.com, Amazon, or other sources of used books online and find your textbooks there for MUCH LESS than you’ll pay at the university bookstore. My savvy daughter-in-law, a recent graduate of BYU, found that by shopping around, she could buy many textbooks for less than than the bookstore buy-back price and actually make a little money on textbooks.
I don’t want to pick on any particular bookstores, but there are some that appear to have tried to reduce online competition for books by delaying publication of the list of required books until about one week before classes start. (Other excuses are offered, of course, such as the indecisiveness of professors who are always changing their minds, forcing bookstores to delay publication until the last minute – apparently professors were a lot more decisive before Half.com became available.) Never fear! It’s usually no problem to receive your textbook a few days after class begins. Many professors are understanding about this, and some of the best ones will specifically choose the penultimate edition so you will be more likely to find it in used form.
Textbook prices are an atrocity (except for any that I may author in the future). I hope you’ll be able to avoid some of the gouging through used books.
I kept most of my engineering and math related textbooks. They collect as much dust now as they did the month after I graduated. It’s hard to say that I would do things differently because I love books, but really, only a few required textbooks were ever of any value, and that was partly because I taught some related courses. Ask professors and others with experience which ones are likely to be classics and gems to keep, and sell back the rest to your bookstore, hopefully for more than your paid online. And take the money you save and spend it on valuable books that will help you for years to come. I’d recommend Nibley over Nabokov, for example, but you decide.