Textbook Time

It’s textbook time. Every semester, you got get them hardbacks. Here’s a quick guide to getting your books for classes at Middlebury. Yes, we believe in reducing costs.

STEP ONE: Choose your classes

Chances are you’re going to switch classes within the first week. It happens and it’s a good thing. But that means you shouldn’t get too ambitious about getting books right now. Hedge your bets and maybe get books for the classes you know you’re going to take or have to take. Otherwise, you may benefit from waiting.

STEP TWO: What books?

The best method is to email your professors to ask for a booklist now. I’d say most professors already know 90% of the books they will assign and already have syllabi written up. Many have submitted their lists to the Bookstore. You can see those lists and search for your courses. Take note of the ISBN numbers and used/new price that the Bookstore will be offering. Note that the Professor will be more accurate than the Bookstore. Sometimes the professor adds the book to the Bookstore too late and so the bookstore lists may be a little dated. Still, it’s a good place to start.

STEP THREE: Renting vs. Buying vs. Borrowing vs. Digital

Here’s where things get tricky and people have a lot of opinions. Renting textbooks from places like Chegg.com is increasingly common and a fairly cheap option that remains flexible. Still, a lot of students like to keep textbooks and some books can be used in multiple classes over one’s college career. Even the College Bookstore is trying out rentals. Buying books at the Bookstore, though, is still the most common. The Bookstore has what you need and it’s available immediately most of the time. The prices are sometimes crazily above what you’d get online but not always. Most often, books are $5-10 over the price you’d find online. For most students, that premium is worth it for convenience. Buying online will be cheaper, but you don’t always know what you’re getting. Be sure to search sites like Amazon.com or Half.com with your ISBN number, not just title. This ensures you get the right edition. Shipping to you is the main challenge of buying online. This year, Amazon.com is offering free two-day shipping for students with .edu email address. Works wonders when you have to get that book immediately. It’ll be even cheaper still if you buy used online but shipping timeframes can be quite varied. I know some folks will have Kindles/Nooks/etc. — good for you, check if your books are available digitally first. Finally, the smart kids also check if books are in the College libraries — borrowing on reserve or for the semester can save you lots of money if you can navigate the library system.

STEP FOUR: Anticipate Post-Semester

At the beginning of the semester, no one thinks about what they want to do with their books after they’re done with the class. But think about — sell books online? sell books back to the Bookstore? Keep the books? If you have an idea of what you want to do after, it might help you decide whether you buy, rent, or borrow now.

Former MiddBlog lead editor Emily put it in fewer words last year talking further about luxury of Panther Points and the artist-formerly-known-as-bookstore-bob. Another great resource for all of this with many more links is over at lifehacker.com.