How to Buy Textbooks for University

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    No matter the program you’ve decided to study, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself needing reading materials. Many – if not most – of these will have to be bought from your own budget, so it’s important to know exactly where you buy textbooks so you can get the most out of your money.


    Buy Used Textbooks Online

    If you’re looking for something affordable, there’s no doubt that buying them used is your best option.

    Second-hand books can be a curse or a blessing. They are so much cheaper, but it can cost some time to search for the correct version and location. Sometimes you need a newer version of a book, but when that version is relatively new, it can be hard to find it second-hand.

    For older books, you should pay attention to the state at which it is sold because you want to sell it later when you don’t need it anymore. We consider Marktplaats the best site for hunting those cheap books. However, almost all sellers will be Dutch, and Marktplaats is not the most civilized place, so don’t expect the best English replies.

    Buying books, or anything, really, over Facebook is usually cheap and easy too, though you should take some necessary precautions to not get scammed; never pay for anything until you can see the item and make the transaction in person.

    There are also groups and websites aimed at selling used textbooks. Some of these are specifically linked to a program or a university, like the University of Amsterdam’s UvABooks.nl. These typically operate online and make it easy for you to browse for the specific book you’re looking for.

    If you want a mix of new and second-hand books, you can find both on bol.com. New books are sold by official bookstores via bol.com, while verified users sell second-hand books. If you’re unsure about buying second-hand, then this is the right mix of quality, price, and reliability.

    There are some downsides to buying your textbooks used. For one, the state of the book will most likely be worse than if you were to buy a brand new one. Bent pages and highlights are to be expected, though some of the highlights may prove useful. Still, if you’re particular about the state of your books, this might not be the best approach.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the edition of the book you’re buying. Most textbooks will update from time to time – whether that’s yearly or once per decade depends heavily on the field you’re studying. It may be that your professor is specifically requesting the newest edition, which will have sections that previous ones don’t. 

    In these cases, a used textbook with the same title but of a different edition may prove entirely useless, or maybe there won’t be any notable difference at all. In these cases, it’s always good to ask your professor or check your course catalogue to find out if buying an older edition makes sense.

    Discounts from Student Association

    If there’s one thing that’s uniquely popular in Dutch universities, it’s student associations. There’s one affiliated with most study programs, and whether they’re big or small, they often make it a priority to offer discounts on books relevant to their program.

    On your student association’s website, there’s usually a link to an online store where you can buy your books with the added membership discount. Some even divide the books into the different academic years or semesters that they’re associated with, so you can get an overview and collection of all the books you’ll initially need.

    Textbooks for elective courses may not be included in these bundles. If they’re not, they’re probably somewhere else in the store.

    It’s also possible to sell your old textbooks on some student associations’ websites. If you’ve finished a course, kept your book in a proper state, and know you won’t be needing it again for future courses, this may be a good way of earning some of your money back. 

    There’s usually a fee you have to pay to be a member of a student association and get their discounts. The fee differs greatly between the different associations, so whether it makes the discounts and other services worth it can vary.

    Shopping Websites

    The best place to start your search is Studystore. Studystore has the most extensive offering of books for college and university. This will be the first place for you to search for the right books, as most colleges and universities have partnered with Studystore to offer the right books.

    However, as a result, the books you need will probably be sold out very early. Moreover, their products can be more expensive compared to second-hand books.

    Furthermore, most textbooks are available on Amazon, Bol, or similar online shopping sites. The prices here can vary, though they’re usually not on the cheap end. Still, it’s always an option if you’re having trouble with the other approaches.

    You can also take a look at the publisher’s website of the specific book you’re looking for. Sometimes, they may have their own discounts or link to other places where you can buy cheap copies. This may be more of a time sinker but still worth the time investment if you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal.


    Physical or Digital?

    It may be difficult to decide whether to buy digital or physical textbooks for university. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, so it usually comes down to personal taste.

    Physical textbooks can be easier to use if you want to take notes from them on your computer, and it’s only really possible to buy used books if they’re in physical form. In some courses, certain textbooks are allowed to be used during an exam – though only physical ones, so as to avoid cheating.

    On the other hand, digital books are generally more practical. When you have five different textbooks for one subject, it’s easier to just bring your laptop than a bag full of what feels like bricks. 

    It’s also generally cheaper to buy digital versions of a book rather than a physical one.

    Some professors may insist that you bring specific books to class. However, they’ll usually accept a digital version just as well as a physical one. To be sure, it’s best to consult your course coordinator.

    Borrowing Textbooks Instead of Buying

    If you stumble upon a really expensive book that you don’t think you’ll use that much anyway, it’s always an option to seek access to it elsewhere. There are a few options if you’re looking to save money or just save yourself the trouble.

    Your university’s library usually has a few copies of textbooks relevant to the fields of study available, so you can pass by and see if one is available for use. Some have restrictions in which you could not bring it out of the library, though you can always make use of the study areas there.

    It’s also an option to buy a book with a friend and share it. If it’s one you know you won’t use much, you share it and pay half the price. This isn’t necessarily the best option for those who are particular about what to study and when. Still, it saves you bucks.

    If you do a lot of group study, it may be convenient to share a book with a friend.

    Are Textbooks Actually Necessary?

    This is a tough question to answer, as it depends not only on your specific program and course but on your professor as well.

    Most courses will list some textbooks as obligatory, even if they’re only referenced once in the exam or simply to give more detailed explanations of what you’ll learn in your lectures. It can thereby be difficult to assess which textbooks are worth buying.

    It’s always a good idea to ask your seniors. Those who have already taken the course may tell you which books were necessary and which books were useless so you can entirely avoid those you don’t think you’ll need. 

    Keep in mind that each student has their own study method, so someone saying that they didn’t need a textbook doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t.

    You can always ask your professor. If they say that a book is optional is usually a good indicator that the book is not necessary.  

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