1) Always get the ISBNs for the textbooks you need. This helps you get the exact edition so that you don’t have to worry about returning books if you accidentally order a wrong edition. Also, especially when ordering used books, read the seller’s comments about condition. They could include important pieces of information like, “Instructor’s Edition,” or “First Canadian Edition.” Be sure you know what you’re ordering.
Where can you find an ISBN? You can find it on the back of the book by the barcode. If there’s a sticker over the barcode, it’s always a good idea to check the ISBN on the copyright page inside the first few pages of the book. That way, if someone accidentally put a wrong sticker on the book, you still know you’re looking at the right number.
If your bookstore or student portal doesn’t make ISBNs easily accessible, ask your professor, your bookstore staff, the administrative assistants in the class’s department, or another student. If you can’t find the ISBN, look for all of the following instead. Get the title of the book, the author’s name, the edition, and the publication year. These pieces of information will help you in your search so that you can confirm you’re getting the right book. Once you’re sure you’ve found the right book online with this info, use the ISBN included in that online listing.
2) If the book you need is listed as a package or bundle, your school has put multiple items together and given them one ISBN that doesn’t exist outside of your school bookstore. Get the ISBNs off each individual item in the package or bundle. Purchasing used items individually can save you lots of money. You might also find that one component is almost never used in that particular course. It’s always smart to check with your professor before choosing to not purchase any particular required text.
3) If the book is a custom publication made by your school or has your school’s logo on it, there could be another edition similar enough that you won’t have to purchase it directly from your school’s bookstore. There are, however, some books published by professors of your college or university that you will likely only be able to get at your school bookstore. A quick search will tell you, however, if there is another book similar to the one that’s required. Again, gather the necessary information to make your search for the right item or it’s cheaper cousin easy: title, author, edition, and publication year.
4) Always (always, always!) ask your professor if you can use an older edition. It’s true that some professors are sticklers for the right edition. But it’s surprising how many will let you use an older edition, and even give you ISBNs for any acceptable edition for the class. This can save you a ton of money. If you can’t get the ISBNs of any older editions, but your professor is okay with you using one, use title and author searches to find what you need.
5) Believe shipping times. If a seller or website says your order will arrive in 6-9 business days, it could actually take up to the 9th business day to arrive. Make sure you have the full 9 business days. If you can’t wait until the last possible day, order expedited delivery. You’re likely already saving more than the 4 or so dollars you’re going to spend on speedy delivery. So in the end, it’s worth it!
6) Shop at www.BetterWorldBooks.com! (Okay, shameless plug, but textbooks are how our business got started!)