Textbook trials, tribulations and triumphs

There exist several complimentary routes to getting your textbooks. Obviously, purchasing them at the bookstore is the easiest way – if you have more money than time. For those who have more time than money, there are other places to check first, so get started early. (For a little background on why textbooks are so expensive, check out the Government Accounting Office’s report on textbook price inflation.)

Tip: Have the textbook’s ISBN handy. Having this number will help you to know that you have found the exact book (and edition) you need for class. Textbook information – including the ISBNs, exact title, edition number etc.- can be found at the Duke book store and on their website.

This image courtesy of McGraw-Hill
This image courtesy of McGraw-Hill

Google Book:   Google Book is a specialized Google search for, well, books. Only books. Is your textbook available? Search by title. Almost no book in Google Book is available in full text, however, so pages are always missing to conform to US copyright laws. BUT there are often whole chapters to be found.  Google Book also offers links to finding the book in a nearby library (WorldCat) and online sale outlets (Books-A-Million, Half.com and others).

Perkins Library : Might your professor have put a copy of the book on reserve? Though your access to the reserve copy is limited – it may be currently checked out by a classmate or restricted to in-library use only – a book on reserve is f-r-e-e! The book may also be sitting right on the shelf. Check the catalogue as well.

Blackboard: Perhaps your professor put the first chapter or two in your Blackboard course site. Professors are not obliged to do this, but some do and it will buy you more time, so double check.

Electrify: The electronic version of the textbook may be available at Perkins/Bostock to read on the computer or though an online store, especially if you have a Nook, iPad or Kindle. There is a special ebook  search in our library catalogue, just under the main search field on the front page.

Pretty soon
Editions: Consider earlier or other editions of the textbook you need. Sometimes a new edition is created to include significant new material and findings. Sometimes a new edition is the same information rearranged and has added features like a CD-ROM or access to online materials. So, an older edition might suffice. So might a soft cover edition, instead of the hard back.

InterLibrary Loan :  Using this service, you can request to borrow from another library.  ILL is a popular option, however. Also, the lending period for these books is determined by the library that holds the title, not Duke. You may have quite a short loan period and if there is high demand, it is likely that the book has already been requested or will not be lent so that patrons at that library may have a chance to use it first.

International: Often the UK or Canadian publication or a printing meant to be sold in another country is the same as the US edition you need. These may be significantly cheaper to purchase, but consider shipping costs and timing when pursuing this option. Think Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.ca and remember to calculate the cost in US dollars to make sure it is a bargain.

Rental options:  Compare prices at some of the popular rental sites found with a Google search for “textbook rental”. This is a great time to have your ISBN handy to make sure you have the exact book that you need. Keep in mind that there may be delays with this method and there are few guarantees if there is a problem, such as the wrong edition or pages missing.

Power to the people!
DIY: Consider organizing a book swap or a student-to-student sales site. Often you can sell for more and buy more cheaply when you make a deal person-to-person, compared to a bookstore. This is another good time to check that ISBN to make certain that the edition you purchase is the same one used next semester. With this option, as well, there may be little recourse if you receive a damaged book or find out too late that there is a newer edition in use. Caveat emptor.

Written by Ciara Healy