A Guide to Acquiring Textbooks

These days, college students are faced with an impossible task: purchasing textbooks. And with the purchase of textbooks comes a boatload of questions. Today, I hope to not only address the most common questions about purchasing textbooks, but smash some common misconceptions, too!

1. Where do I buy my textbooks?

Textbooks can be purchased at the Illini Union Bookstore, located on Wright Street. The Illini Union Bookstore is convenient for all students, offering pick-up, shipping, and returns. Students can search for books by campus term, department, course, and section. Students will also find University of Illinois merchandise for sale at the bookstore. The bookstore is open weekdays from 7:30 am – 8:00 pm and weekends from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm.

2. Should I buy my textbooks before classes start?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question, as it depends on the course. In my eyes, you can never be too prepared, so if you know you will use your textbook, the earlier the better. However, this is not the most cost-effective method. There is no guarantee that you will use every textbook you buy, or that every textbook listed on your course syllabus will be required. My best advice? Check in with your professor or teaching assistant to ask how the textbook is used in the course.

3. How much will it cost?

The shorthand answer? Textbooks can be pricey. In fact, textbooks have wracked up quite a fee in my college spending. That being said, I have developed a few tips and tricks to making textbook-purchasing a more economic decision. First, buy the textbook used instead of new. Used textbooks are often in great condition and can save you tons of money. Second, check second-hand sellers, such as Amazon, for the same book. The bookstore is quick and easy, but may not always be the least expensive option. Again, Amazon offers books new and used. Chegg is also a great resource. In some cases, you may even share a textbook with a friend, which is a two-for-one deal!

4. Should I rent or should I buy?

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Unless you plan on heavily annotating your textbook, I would stick to renting. But like all things, it comes down to personal preference. Renting will save you tons of money when it comes to acquiring textbooks. The downside, of course, is that the book is not yours to own, and you are responsible for the book’s damage. Thinking of renting? Check out Chegg, Amazon, CampusBooks, and Kindle.

And with this question comes an embarrassing story from my freshman year.

Being the poor college freshman I was, I decided to rent a textbook through Chegg for a spring semester course. The spring semester came and went, and I gladly sped into my summer vacation. In July, I received a rude awakening. That textbook I had rented for $20 wracked up a $60 late fee, as I had never returned it. Moral or the story? Set a reminder on your phone to return your rented books well before the due date!


Class of 2020
I am studying Middle Grades Education with concentrations in Social Sciences and Literacy in the College of Education. Although I now reside in Champaign, I am originally from Vernon Hills, a Northwest suburb of Chicago.

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