How not to go broke buying textbooks

I am not sure about you, but I always feel anxious to get back to school after a prolonged break. Although it is one of my life goals to become a person who can fully embrace the art of il dolce far niente, the anxiety devil that lives on my shoulder begins to poke my “feel guilty about relaxing” button with its pitchfork after only one day of binging movies. One of the ways I try to assuage these lack-of-productivity jitters is by shopping for my textbooks.

Buying textbooks is a simple way to feel productive while still giving yourself a needed break. But buying textbooks can also be a fraught and costly process, especially if you wait until the last minute. Below are some of my favorite places to score textbook deals, and while it is always better to start early, these tips and sites should work even if you are the procrastinating type.

Doug Bartel
  1. Check Facebook for upperclassmen selling books

Upperclassmen typically publish a list of books for sale on each class’s Facebook page a couple of weeks before the semester begins. I have found some of the best deals on these lists because the prices are set by your fellow law students who understand how financially burdensome buying textbooks can be. Tip: Don’t be afraid to make a post specifically asking for a book before the list is published.

  1. Honey extension

Honey is a Chrome extension that helps you find the best deals on the internet. For example, if you’re buying a textbook from Amazon, Honey might pop up a message to tell you that it found that same book for a much better deal on a different website. Honey also scours the internet for coupon codes and applies them so that you don’t have to. Thanks to Honey, I routinely receive discounts and free shipping. Honey doesn’t usually work on the websites of small businesses, but it will for any large online vendor.

  1. Public library

While the public library likely will not have the legal casebooks you need, I find the library helpful when a professor requires secondary sources. For example, in my Federal Indian Law course this semester, Professor Watts required us to read an expert’s book containing opinions about several cases we read. We only needed the book for a few class periods, so instead of purchasing the book, I rented it from the public library and saved $25.

  1. Ask professors if an older edition might work

Some professors are very flexible about which edition of the required textbook you may use. If a professor is flexible—you would know this by asking them directly and not relying on what you have heard from your friends—you could save hundreds of dollars. Although publishing companies will periodically release new editions of the casebooks, there are often very few substantive changes in the book.

  1. Knetbooks/Chegg/Amazon rental

If I plan to rent a book, I will rent it from one of these three sites. They have the best customer service and return policies. Tip: When searching their websites, use the ISBN, not the title.

  1. Thriftbooks

Thriftbooks deals epitomize the adage, “The early bird gets the worm.” Occasionally, you can find the casebook you need on Thriftbooks, but there will only be one or two copies available. In other words, you will compete with law students from across the country for those few copies. The prices on Thriftbooks are mindbogglingly low. I have never spent more than $30 on a book from this site. If you are unfamiliar with Thriftbooks, think Half Priced Books but all online and with a better search engine.

-By Doug Bartel, a 2L from Olathe and a KU Law Student Ambassador