The Cheapest College Textbook: Right Under Your Nose

What if near you right now I could tell you where to find the cheapest college textbook for your classes – better than a used textbook sale, some even free? If I told you about a free bookstore, would you check it out?

Is it possible that all the professors on your campus got together and each picked a bunch of books, then put them in a big building on campus for you to use, for free? Yes, it is possible.

Believe it or not, this magical place exists...

Ever heard of it? Been there? It's your university library! Professors and librarians often stock books you can use in your classes. I explain here some ins and outs and what have yous about using any library to find the cheapest college textbook you can.

The Library Is NO Joke!

I recently read in Reader's Digest:A young man told his friend he got a job at the library. His friend said, Cool. Does that mean you can check books out for free?

Um, actually everyone can check books out for free.

Using Your Library for Free Textbooks, Example #1

When I was working on my graduate degree, my finance prof required us to read Against The Gods, by Peter Bernstein, a book about statistical probability and risk.

And yes, it was boring.

It cost about $20 new, and now you can get it for $5 or so used, plus $4 shipping. While I wanted to do well in the class, I had no intention of keeping the book. A friend in the class said she was looking at the library. That sounded interesting.

I went to my library and got it. Well, I actually went to a couple of libraries – something you should remember. One had a waiting list, the other had a copy available at another branch, not too far from home. I picked it up.

I had the book, and I got an A in the class.

End Result: My library provided a free textbook.

Example #2: A Study Guide

At another point, I was preparing to take a professional exam, and I needed a review type textbook. To prepare for this big exam, I needed a specific book with examples, problems to solve, and a good review by others who had taken the test before me.

I went to the city library, did a simple search, and found a few of the right kind of books. Finding those books kind of shocked me. They cost in the $100 range, and here the library had them waiting for free. I looked them over, and picked out the book I thought looked the best.

I kept it until I had finished the test. It cost me about $5 in fees, because I had it too long, which I don't recommend. But I passed the test, and I used a semi-free textbook to do it. Talk about a great way to save student loan money for tuition!

Library Hazards

I have found a few hazards in using the library for finding the cheapest college textbooks.

Selection: First, you won't always find the book you need. If you need a few Shakespeare plays, Dickens, or Palahniuk's newest book, you can find it usually. If you want to find a regular textbook, you may or may not. I know one professor who uses The Millionaire Next Door to teach personal finance - that one you could find.

Duration: Next, the time a library will give you may not be long enough for the class. You can sometimes extend, unless someone is waiting for the book.

You can have a friend place a hold on the book, to avoid losing it. Then, when your checkout time expires, you take it in and your friend checks it out and brings it to you. I don’t recommend keeping books past the due date, since that wouldn’t be fair, and the library is free for everyone. ;)

Multiplication: Use more libraries. Check your school library, your city library, a county library, and see if you can access others to find what you need. In my area, our county runs the local libraries. The next county allows us to have a card there, too. Your school, like mine, may have an agreement with other schools to share libraries.

More libraries = More of the Cheapest College Textbooks you need.

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