Engineering graduate navigating life after university.

Alternatives To Buying New Textbooks

The time is here where your professor hands you the two-paged course syllabus and underneath the heading, “textbook required” you see at least two listed. No biggy you think and then you search them up in your campus store. That’s when your heart drops. $200 for a textbook that I’ll be using for 3-4 months? And what’s that – I have 6 other courses requiring books too? These books better have a page of gold in them.

Simple math states that you’ll spend $2400 ($200 per book for 12 courses) in textbooks in your first year!

Don’t be silly and give in because truthfully speaking, you’ll barely use them in the future – not even for your capstone. (The books needed for capstone will most likely be relating to your courses in your final years.)

Consider the following alternatives in buying brand new textbooks:


1. Used books

This is just plain obvious. Used books are cheaper and book stores on your campus will definitely carry at least one or two that are required during your year. Make sure you go early in the morning since that’s when they restock! Also don’t fret if the versions are older than required! The content of the newer and older versions are the same and only the page and question numbers are switched around. This isn’t too much of a struggle so save yourself that extra $150.

Resources to finding used books:

  • Used campus book store – duh.
  • Kijiji – I’ve bought and sold so many books from this site at a very decent price! Make sure to meet up on campus to avoid any mishaps!
  • Reach out to alumni or senior students to borrow their books for the semester for a small price. I’ve done this so many times! The engineering community is probably the tightest community among each other than other fields of study so making friends is easy. The engineering environment is definitely built upon teamwork and will extend their arm for one of their own.
  • Check Facebook buy/sell groups for engineering. Most schools have their dedicated facebook pages for selling textbooks. Do a facebook search, join the groups and find someone selling your book!


2. Red Shelf

I’ve used ebooks throughout my entire 4 years of university. They are super, super useful and so cheap. Red Shelf is such an amazing site to buy ebooks if you cannot find them already for free. Click the banner below to find out more.

Study smart, not harder with eBooks. Shop now at!


3. Google

Google the textbook you need and put the word, “pdf” after it. This is something how the text should look like, “Textbook name. Online. PDF.” If nothing shows up, try using variations of the textbook title and making sure you write pdf at the end of each variation. Hopefully you find something and remember, even if it’s an older version – a pdf copy is worth having. It is such a good feeling finding your textbook online!


4. Kindle

Textbooks on kindle to me are not practical unless if they are for your liberal courses (ex. Reading a novel for an essay and such). You can buy the book through the kindle option and as expected the prices for a digital copy as opposed to hard copy are much cheaper!


5. Share with a friend

If your friend and you are taking the same class, buy one copy and share it by using other resources like google note, scanning important sections and etc. I’ve done this with so many of my courses and because of it I have saved a lot of dough ($$$). When the course ends, just sell it and split the profit!


6. Check your library!

In many cases I found my textbook in my library! My library, however, didn’t let me take out these type of textbooks for more than a day or two because they were high in demand. So what do you do in these type of situations? You scan the important pages/chapters biweekly. Paying 5 cents a page for content that will actually be covered is so much better than buying the entire book and only using a quarter of it. And if it isn’t in your universities library check the public library!


7. Amazon student

Probably one of the best sites out there to help students in the states out. You’ve got a fair selection of used books, brand new books and the free two-day shipping! If I lived in the states this site would get a lot of visits by me as I don’t give up in finding a textbook that I can find at a ridiculously low price or for free.

8. Wait it out

This is something I did every single semester. In fact a lot of students after 2nd year get wiser in deciding which book they really need and which books they don’t by waiting it out. You will too. Get into a course for at least 3 weeks before deciding if you really need the book to understand the content.

Sometimes just googling or youtubing a topic is better than thinking a textbook will solve all your problems. Try the free alternatives and consult your resources before putting in that hefty investment in books. You can get good grades in a course without having the book for it. Read the class notes, consult the professor during office hours for further explanations and look up the topic on youtube! Waiting it out doesn’t hurt.

What are some of the alternatives you use instead of buying brand new textbooks? Let me know in the comments.


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