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11Stuffing a suitcase, kissing family members goodbye, seeing old friends and rearranging a new room can make a student forget about buying textbooks for the new semester’s classes.

A student’s uncertainty about whether there will be a need to drop or add classes during the early days of a new semester adds to the reluctance to committing to buy textbooks.

“Textbooks are expensive,” junior Jessica Lays Santos said. “I know God is the source, but I can only work 15 hours.”

There is a saying that half of a student’s education in college happens outside the classroom; for freshman Kat Biang, this could not be more true. She learned quickly to find an effective alternative to save money on her course textbooks. Biang revealed that for this semester, she did not spend a single dollar on textbooks after learning about other alternatives.

Biang’s secret is networking and her understanding of I-Share, the shared Illinois academic library database. “As soon as I registered for classes, I began searching for my required textbooks on I-share,” she said.

What Biang could not find there, she borrowed from students who had already taken the class. “The best time to start getting textbooks is during finals week,” she said. Her reasoning is that is when students begin packing for the break, they will be looking to give up their old textbooks.

There are a multitude of ways for students to find books at affordable prices. One of the easiest ways to find cheap books is on the Internet. Sophomore Conner Matusek said simply typing “cheap books” into a search engine revealed gems in textbook hunting. Yet with the fear of cyber crime, tried and tested websites such as Amazon, Abe Books, Valore Books, Chegg and Book Buy are often the best place to find textbooks.

Technological advances also mean that students no longer have to buy physical books. Instead they can buy electronic copies which not only save space and the environment, but they also are available almost immediately after they are ordered. A student should verify with the professor if the use of an electronic book is permitted.

Buying is only one option, and another is renting. It can still be expensive, though. Matusek said he has a friend who spent over $200 renting books.

Another concern with getting books over the Internet is that the books will not arrive in time for the first day of classes. On one junior’s first day of this semester, there were only two people in a class of sixteen who had received their textbooks for the course. Because students are expected to have required materials on the first day of classes, the professor set an exam for the first Friday that same week. All of the students in the class were forced to share the two books – an hour at a time – in order to study for the exam.

However, not all professors enforce this rule strictly. Many realize the financial complications of acquiring textbooks and try to work around it. Some professors lend textbooks at the beginning of the semester to give students time to purchase them, while other professors will let students use an older edition of a textbook.

Getting textbooks is a rite of passage for all college students go through, but with some advance preparation and added flexibility from students and faculty, doing so won’t break the bank.

Image courtesy of Julia Suber