How do you decide whether to buy a used textbook, an older edition, or a brand new one? Your decision can have important impact on your grades and your pocketbook!
There are many options for buying textbooks- new from the school bookstore or mail through new book sellers; used from the school bookstore, through bookstores near the school that specialized in used books, through Half.com or eBay, through other online venues; from ads posted on your college bulletin board (in the student center) or student newspaper, or on any number of online college websites.
1: Schools guard the book lists like they are gold- they are! Schools have tended to rent space to bookstores like Borders and have a stake in the success of those bookstores. It is difficult to obtain a full list before the first day of classes.
2. The earlier you know what books you need, the more options you have for finding a bargain. Some creative ways to find out the titles are asking people who have taken the class before (risking the possibility of teacher changes), asking the professor (who probably will be inundated with requests and less than helpful), asking the library what books the professor has put on reserve for that class, etc.
3. On-line book dealers who sell textbooks successfully over time are sensitive to the time crunch involved with textbooks, but the postal service will only deliver within the time frame they designate for each service they offer. Media mail takes 4-10 days for delivery, so with a reasonable shipping delay of 1-2 days and the day of purchase/payment- it probably will take 2 weeks for an on-line textbook to reach you. If you can find a good deal on the purchase price, it may be cost effective to pay for Priority Mail shipping. Many sellers combine shipping on multiple books. If you are ordering a lot of small paperbacks from one seller, a flat rate box is generally a good buy.
HOW TO DECIDE--- NEW or USED?
1. The first consideration is whether important changes have occured in the field of study between editions. Most technologies, as in computer and medical, and hard sciences, such as chemistry, physics, and biology, especially beyond the survey/basic course level, are in a constant state of change, and are poor candidates for using an old text, unless you can make a physical comparison of the new and used texts against the reading list and then add the newer information by copying chapters from someone's text or by going to the library, and copying journal articles. The cost in time may outweigh the cost in cash.
Subjects such as history and literature are generally more amenable to using older materials, since they finished works of literature, and unlikely to change. They may be subjected to a new interpretation, or coupled with critical esays, but the works will remain the same from edition to edition. Again- It is important to look at the professor's syllabus, and the new text, before you purchase an old one. In the front of the text, it usually notes what changes have been made since the previous edition, and what has been added. In history and literature, references to recent journal articles should be noted. They are easy to access as supplemental materials from the college library. Look at the index of the old text to make sure that the literature you need is there. If an author you need to read has been removed, you will need supplemental material, which you can access at the library (although there is a lot of competition to take out these books- you could always get a library card in the community and take the book out there). There are also lots of used paperback books by classic authors available on e-bay.
Whether to use an older math or statistics text is less clear. It is possible that someone has developed new ways of looking at old material. The basic concepts, however, are not likely to change. It may be effective to use an older text and supplement it with journal articles.
2. Why all this thought about using old textbooks? First, there is a large economic consideration. A commonly assigned book- The Norton Anthology of American Literature / Nina Baym, General Editor, 6th edition is listed on ebay for $11.00; the sixth edition is listed new at Barnes and Noble, the college bookstore, for $59.17, at difference of $39.35; used for 42.00, at a difference of $31.00. If you don't mind tracking down a few journal articles in addition to this, the used text is probably a good buy. College bookstores also offer used texts (in this case there is a savings of $17.17 at my college bookstore). You need to weigh the additional markup at the college bookstore against the cost of postage when making a choice.
3. The used textbook may be marked with highlighting or notes. It is important to consider condition when buying a used text, and your personal preferences. If you are not bothered by markings, then the used text is a bargain. If you can't read a marked text or lose concentration when your eye hits a note or underlining, then the new is the way to go.
4. Consider this scenario: your old text says the world is flat, and the newer one says that the world is round. Well, that's one question you'd get wrong on the test; not to mention that your thought process is moving in the completely wrong direction! If the subject is no longer the same, then a used text is not saving you money, and could cost you a good grade. The differences can be much more subtle than my example, which makes them harder to identify. If in doubt, buy new.
5. Buying used is good for the environment, and saves trees. I don't know if the cause and effect is that immediate, but a philosophy of using up the package that is already opened is probably good for the environment in the long run.
6. One other consideration is whether you need to buy all of the texts the professor has assigned. Sometimes you are given a reading list which leans heavily on one textbook, and only has a few readings in the others. It would be very cost effective to obtain the other information from the library or from journal articles. I am sure that the following example is atypical, but I had a Cognitive Psychology professor who assigned three texts that were virtually identical in content, but issued by different publishers. He was cited in all three!Finally- no matter what the economic climate or our personal financial situation, it simply makes sense not to waste money.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO VOTE ***HELPFUL*** FOR THIS GUIDE- IT'S PLACEMENT IN THE GUIDES DEPENDS ON YOUR VOTE!!!