When to buy books?
In particular, when should you purchase a textbook for a course? We’ve discussed textbooks before (and why to buy them) and what they’re useful for. This discussion is a challenging one because textbooks are very expensive, but aren’t always necessary for every course just because they are recommended.
Start with the syllabus
The syllabus is one of the main resources which will tell you how important the textbook is. Can you use the textbook in exams? Do you have to have it to access the assignment or practice problems? Is there some online resource that you get access to and is needed for the course by buying the textbook? These are the first questions you need to ask.
How is the textbook used in the course?
That’s the key question, and if the syllabus doesn’t tell you and the courses online portal has no information, then you need to email the professor and ask what the textbook is used for in the course. Another information source for this question is talking to previous students who took the course with the same instructor(though beware that they might mislead you based on wanting to sell you their used textbook).
Lots of options
Now that you know how the book is used, you can determine in which format to obtain the book. There are many possibilities in the modern day to obtain a textbook including:
- The library copy (least expensive)
- Book rental companies
- Used older editions of the book
- Used copies
- Online copies
- New (most expensive)
Depending on how the book is used in the class will help you decide which format to acquire the textbook.
One other consideration
The last thing about a textbook, is that there are a few textbooks that not only are used for courses, but are also used by practicing professionals. If the course is in a field where you might work in someday, then you should check to see if this particular textbook is the one that is used throughout a career. If it is, then it’s a good buy.