By Ariele Vaccaro
At that point, all you can do is take solace in the fact that you’re not the only one.
According to the College Board, an American post-secondary student spends, on average, $1,200 a semester on textbooks.
Some standalone books can cost more than $200. And the thing is, you have to eat, too.
There’s a silver lining, though. With the rise of online shopping and textbook rental, your university can no longer make a monopoly of your textbook needs.
Instead, you have the option to shop around at a number of different online vendors and pick out what works for you — whether it’s an Algebra hardcover spotted with coffee stains, selling for twenty percent of the original price or a fresh-from-the-plastic, second edition handbook on Shakespearean poetry for full price, because, hey, it’s Shakespeare.
Here are just a few places you can pick up those books, in any condition or at any price you prefer.
We’ll start with the obvious option, one you may have tried before.
It was a keeper for me throughout college. Since I was your typical, perpetually broke, ramen-eating journalism major, I turned to the individual vendors quite often.
They offered used or new copies, all rated by Amazon’s condition scale which labels books as acceptable, good, very good, and like new. Anything less, and Amazon isn’t interested.
I typically went with the used copies and chose the cheapest one possible from the vendor with the highest ratings possible. It might come to me with a few dog-eared pages and some guacamole on the back cover, but who cared?
I had what I needed to succeed, and I would soon be making inkblot tests with drippings of soy mocha in its chapters anyway.
If you prefer to read on your Kindle, tablet, or desktop rather than from those old, flimsy, smelly things your parents call “pages”, Amazon may be your textbook marketplace of choice.
Be warned, though. Sometimes their ebooks are more expensive that the used, old-fashioned textbook version.
Renting is also an option with some of the books available on Amazon.
However, if you’re one to lose or simply abuse them, I recommend buying a used copy instead.
A renter’s dream — Chegg hands out books for a fee of 30 to 80 percent less than the average price of the book.
You place your order online, they send you the book, you keep the box, send it back at the end of the semester, and the deal is done.
If you don’t send it back, however, you’ll begin racking up charges. Still, Chegg won’t ever charge you more than the price of the book.
In addition, the company is pretty lax about damage. They expect regular wear and tear and don’t mind highlighting. If you lose a book, you can even replace it with another in similar condition.
I used this website once and had a seamless experience. Though, I did lose the box. And I did forget where I set down that statistics book a few times, but I always found it.
I highly recommend Chegg to anyone who is more organized than myself.
This one is an exclusive shout-out to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students. If you’re a freshman unfamiliar with your options, your first instinct is to buy your book from the UWM Bookstore, which is now completely online but still represented in the Union.
My recommendation: don’t do that. Shop around. One of the easiest ways to do that is to stroll across Downer Ave., to Neebo, known more commonly as the Panther Bookstore.
There, you can find the books you need for likely a few bucks cheaper than the Bookstore can offer. Neebo exists online as well.
The store gives you the option to rent. But, as I mentioned earlier, it might be better to simply buy a beat-up, used copy with a torn cover than to rent a nice one that you’re likely to lose.