Everyone’s textbook situation is different depending on which classes you’re taking.
History classes tend to require thick, heavy textbooks, while some economics classes call for a subscription to an online textbook with an interactive quiz component. Journalism classes might have you constantly repurchasing new editions of the AP Stylebook.
Regardless of what your course load looks like, it’s essential to know what options are available.
Before you decide to buy or rent textbooks from Norris, Beck’s or Amazon, consider these four other options if you find yourself cringing as you read through your professor’s syllabus.
1. Find free PDF’s online
Finding free PDF’s of reading materials online can be pretty tricky, and tends to be most successful when you’re looking for excerpts from popular books. If you have the proper research skills, however, anything is possible. Some starter tips:
Use keywords like ‘pdf’, ‘free’, and ‘online’ to prioritize what you actually need, which is not just a link to buy the book, but the free…online…PDF…
Use quotations to narrow your search down to the correct material, not something with similar wording.
Be specific about which edition you’re looking for – I’ve made the mistake of not indicating and accidentally ordering the wrong version!
2. Interlibrary loan that ish!
Interlibrary loans allow you to borrow materials from other libraries if you can’t find what you’re looking for online or on campus. The key with ILL’s is planning ahead, because it can take a few weeks to ship and receive the textbooks. If it all works out, however, you could have free textbooks!
3. Check out books from Northwestern’s library
Downside: you can’t write on the books.
Upside: You get textbooks for free!
If you act quickly enough, the library can be a great option for novels or shorter, smaller books that classes require. Northwestern often has multiple copies on hand, but double check our online database just to be sure!
Also, don’t forget about the Evanston Public Library, off-campus on Orrington Avenue. It’s extremely straightforward to sign up for a card, and it even comes with a keychain library card for easier access!
4. Free & For Sale
Free & For Sale is Northwestern’s Facebook group for buying and selling items and services. Around the start and end of every quarter, it blows up with students posting pictures of old textbooks, with details about how ‘well-loved’ it is, which professor and course it was bought for, etc.
The way it normally goes down is that you and the seller agree on a price, establish a spot to meet up and exchange with either cash or Venmo. Beware that professors sometimes alter the reading materials for classes year-to-year, or even quarter-to-quarter, and students selling old textbooks may not always be aware. Always compare prices and make sure you’re buying your books at a reasonable price.
[part of The Northwestern Chronicle’s Freshman Issue, Fall 2016]