Textbooks-To Buy or Not to Buy?

To purchase a textbook or not? That is indeed the question

To purchase a textbook or not? That is indeed the question

“Buy the book”, he said. “You’re gonna need it”, she said. Don’t believe what either person says, it’s all lies!


Honestly, when I was a Freshman there were several words that could sum me up: Small. Childish. Immature. But the word that I and many of you Freshman out there may fall prey to is Naïve.

To be honest, who can blame you? It’s a new environment. You’re in unfamiliar territory, wary of what danger lurks ahead. Using your syllabus presented to you by your professor, or some other informative resource, you tirelessly search for the correct ISBN at your local bookstore with the hopes of finding the books you were urged to buy. Why? Because your professor exclaimed that the text was a requirement for the class. You follow the instructions perfectly as though it were some kind of special recipe. You have the text, the supplemental guide to the text, an ebook, and some kind of cardboard that has a code to grant access to the ebook. And now, 500+ dollars later, you have a stack of textbooks lazily collecting dust on your desk since you probably won’t ever use them. Money well spent!

The sad part is that none of that was an exaggeration at all!

Oddly, you’d think professors would warn you (and to be fair, I’ve had a few professors explain the pros and cons of buying the recommended texts) but the amount is bafflingly low. As I can recall, I’ve only had 3 professors ever give the class that suggestion!

[Related: Why choosing the right professor is key!]

Most will assert that you need those books! Now from experience, you most likely DON’T need the text but that heavily depends on the type of class, the type of teacher, the overall intensity of the course and the material covered, and what kind of student you are.

If you’re taking a math class or even a science class, your best bet is to buy the book!

If you’re taking a math class BUY THE BOOK. BUY IT. IMMEDIATELY. And the main reason for this is simply because math classes tend to use questions from the book or questions that are similar for the most part to your homework. If you struggle with the homework, chances are you’re probably going to struggle on quizzes and exams.  Also, there are usually step by step processes that the book explains to you about formulas, equations, theorems, etc. As an alternative, if you’re hurting for cash, you can try to grab a copy from the library reserve (if one is available) but for a math or even a science course (like Chemistry or Physics), I wouldn’t recommend doing that. I’d just buy the book.

Now, the type of teacher that you have is important! You’ll quickly learn that some professors go by the book almost exclusively and there are others that prefer to lecture from what they think is most important.

My advice is that if the teacher goes by the book, while you can get away with not purchasing the textbook (since the professor will stick to it so closely that the lecture is usually sufficient), I’d recommend buying it only because the tests or quizzes tend to be almost verbatim from homework assignments or book notes (at least in my experience). If the professor never goes by the book then don’t buy it. You’ll most likely never use it because these types of professors tend to go against the flow and pacing of the book and simply provide you with the information that they think you’ll need.

If at any point a concept flies over your head, there’s usually other websites or resources online that’ll teach you what you need to know. P.S: Look for the free ones, there’s plenty!

At the end of the day, if you want extra cash in your pocket I’d say don’t waste your money on buying books. If you must have a copy because you’re unsure or just want to be safe, then I’d suggest renting from a website like Chegg or Amazon and saving money that way.

Any comments or questions? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below! Looking forward to hearing from you guys!