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What to Consider Before You Get Used Textbooks

Dec 2, 2016
Have you ever bought a car? If the answer’s “no”, that’s fine! You’ll have plenty of precious time to do so when the opportunity presents itself. If the answer’s “yes”, that’s fine too! You may find many of the following tips and tricks for deciding when to buy new vs. used textbooks quite similar to the trials and tribulations of purchasing an automobile. Well, that is without the dealership salesman haggling you for extra pennies or trying to sell you a cassette player. Car analogy aside, this blog post is designed to provide you with helpful tips to get the most out of your textbook buying experience, from both a financial and logical perspective.

So what does that entail? We’ve put together some top things to consider before taking the plunge and buying that shrink-wrapped third edition Statistics book for a hefty sum. These guidelines will also help you determine the flipside too—like being the only person in class who doesn’t have chapter 8 during the midterm because you picked up a used copy from a chapter-ripper*. So, without further ado:
  1. The Syllabus “50/50 Check”: This should be your first area of attack. Always check the syllabus to see how heavily involved the textbook will be throughout the semester. If it looks like a substantial amount of the textbook will be covered throughout the entire semester (use 50% as the baseline benchmark), you definitely want to get the new version. ‘Well’, you ask, ‘wouldn’t it make more sense to get the used one, since I know exactly what to expect?’ A fair question—however it’s best to understand that a heavily used textbook is more apt to aid you throughout the semester and you’re going to want to have the most recent edition when exam time rolls around. Trust us on this one—you don’t want to be halfway through an open-book exam only to realize you’ve done problems #25-67 from last year’s edition.
  2. Ask The Professor: Does your teacher seem like an honest guy? A chill gal? Ask them their opinion. Chances are they’ll be honest with you. Most of the time, they’ll tell you exactly what you’ll need for the course. Obviously, you won’t want to outright ask them if you should buy the used version of the book. That just screams “pass/fail” in a non-screaming way. The best way is to ask questions about the course, the books you should buy, and how much you’ll be using them for the class. If they give you a hard time, you can always track back to point #1 up above or consider point #3 below.
  3. Major Minor: On a scale of 1-10 (1 being useless, 10 being essential), how important is this course to your future? Your career? All right, that’s a loaded question, but consider this before buying used textbooks versus new ones. Oftentimes, newer books come with exclusive online content that can only be redeemed through a brand new purchase. While this may not be an essential textbook asset for a class you need to take to get graduation credit, chances are it can be mighty useful in additional learning for your major. You’ll probably want to keep this book too, and you can be rest assured that a brand new textbook will have all sections in working function for you to reference at a later date.
What other things do you consider before buying a textbook brand new? Are there more advantages to getting a newer textbook as opposed to a used one?

*chapter-ripper – noun: an individual who rips out chapters from his/her textbook upon completion of their exam (or during a brief period of frustration).