Photo Credit: Pauline Loroy (via Unsplash)
A close second to the financial blow of paying a semester’s tuition fees is the ritual of purchasing textbooks. Some course-required textbooks can cost more than $100 at their cheapest price point. Textbook prices vary depending on the area of study and the course. Science-related courses often have you shielding your eyes as you press the “buy now” button for an eBook.
It is possible to save some money by considering all your options for buying a textbook. For example, deciding on whether to buy the hardcover or loose-leaf copy, or buying online access to an eBook. I encourage first-year and beyond students to do their research before defaulting to the MUN bookstore for their textbook shopping trips.
Often, the Memorial University bookstore offers various formats of the same textbook so that you can choose which format you’d like and which price you’re willing to pay. However, sometimes you can get a better deal on your textbook by considering other resources. Indigo Canada offers a slim selection of textbooks but sometimes you can get lucky with a lower price. Book Depository is another website that you can use to search for better pricing, but you have to keep the potentially long shipping times in mind when buying textbooks from this source.
In terms of eBooks, there are iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Rakuten/Kobo (available on the Indigo website), or, a fan favourite of MUN students, VitalSource. eBooks, in general, are notably less expensive than buying a hard copy of a textbook. All these sources have a wide selection of textbooks available in a digital format. On VitalSource, you can sometimes rent your textbook for 180 days for a greater discount in price. Let’s be real, most textbooks remain in our possession long after their usefulness has expired.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of physical copies of textbooks versus eBooks. On one hand, a physical textbook offers a more organic experience. Some students prefer to read from a printed page than on a phone or tablet. You can also buy physical textbooks used from students who are finished with them. Buying or selling used textbooks are a great option if you really want to save money.
eBooks have the advantage of being light; you don’t need to carry them around in your backpack, instead, they can be stored on a mobile device. They also have the advantage of often being cheaper than the hard copies of a textbook. With an eBook, you can search any topic in the text without having to rifle through the appendix. You can also highlight portions of the text and create margin notes (which, in theory, you could also do with a paper copy, but it may lower the resell value). The downside of buying an eBook is that they aren’t generally resellable. Unless you’re willing to release your account information to another student, there is no way to transfer eBooks to a new owner.
Finally, there are benefits to visiting the MUN bookstore. For example, there are always customer service personnel that are willing to help you with any questions. You can search your course number online and be automatically transported to a list of textbooks. They also make obscure and hard-to-find textbooks available to students. Every now and then, the bookstore’s prices are better than all these sources with the added benefit of being able to have the textbook in hand the minute you buy it.