On a budget: Textbooks on the cheap

You’ve spent the last couple of weeks budgeting, you figured out how much you can spend to eat, drink, party and have a fab time in your first year of university.

If you’re anything like me, you haven’t taken into account some of the hidden costs of university. Printing costs, essential fees, and the inevitable cost of textbooks. If you’re studying economics, be very afraid.

Let me take you through a few key budget-bashing tips.

Where you’re at now

It’s the middle of summer: the brief but memorable time of the year when the sun is shining (looks out window – still raining). People are smiling more, and lads think it’s socially acceptable to walk around Sainsbury’s without a shirt on. The best thing? You’re relaxing an inexplicable amount, whilst still trying to explain to your parents that “this is the last chance to sit in and play Destiny all day, ok?”

If like me, this is your first “recommended reading” list to read before university (pwhoar), then you’re probably feeling the same emotions as I did.

“I MUST read as many as I can.”

After all – that’s what’s I do at A-levels, and uni’s even harder! Right?

Wrong. In fact, don’t worry.

You may be tempted to rush to Amazon, find every single one of these books, bang them in your basket and look the other way as hundreds of pounds (that you’ve been scrupulously saving for freshers’ week) disappears from your bank account. Don’t do this. Please, please don’t do this. There is another way.

What do I do then?

The first thing to remember is: be patient. If you’re really itching to get a head start on your fellow students, there’s a wealth of online bookstores that can get you most of what you need on the cheap. You might get lucky on Amazon’s used book feature, where you can buy most books pre-owned for less money, although when it comes to a few anthologies and textbooks, the price difference isn’t usually massive.

Abe Books is worth a look, too, but watch out for extortionate shipping costs. If you’re a bit embarrassed by the thought of turning up to your first seminar with a bunch of raggedy books, you should know something: it will not even come close to being the most embarrassing thing you do this Freshers’ week.

Okay – what now?

The likelihood is you’ll have found few or no books within an affordable price range by now, but don’t panic. In your first meeting with your tutor, ask them for a breakdown of what you’ll be studying: what books they think you’ll need in entirety, and what you only need parts of. Remember – you don’t need to read the entire list!

Now, go straight to the library.

Come one, don’t dawdle folks. They will ALL be gone within a couple of weeks. Every one of your newfound classmates is your enemy, and they’re probably going through the same inexorable emotions as you are now!

The library provides several copies of the most on-demand textbooks and anthologies, but in the rare case that only one copy is left, there’s no shame in pushing students aside or trampling them underfoot to get to the copy first. Go, go!

Another book has been requested?!

Someone’s requested the last copy of the I book really need…

Okay, you’ve got your copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract, you’re feeling much better about yourself, cup of tea in hand,  and – oh no! – it’s been requested by another student. You have to hand it back tomorrow.

This is fairly frequent, and the costs of not taking it back can be extortionate for some of us.

Just scan it and get the pages you really need sent to you york.ac.uk email address. You can use any of the printers on campus, by using your card – and don’t forget to click the option to ‘Job Build’! Many a hungover morning I’ve scanned about 50-60 pages without job build… That’s a lot of emails.

If it’s more than a chapter you want to copy, you might have to do some quick maths to work out if it would be cheaper to face the fines. Remember that requested books – especially popular ones – have much heavier fines, so don’t try this very often; besides, it’s always better in the long run to have a permanent copy to yourself that you can look back on.

Other options – my secret!

Have you made it this far – GOOD. I wanted to give you my one, all time secret at the end of this article, so those of you who really need copy that copy of the Leviathan.

It may also be that the library doesn’t actually have the text you’re looking for, but an eagle-eyed student from your seminar whispers, “get it online, duh.”

Seriously, type into Google the title and the author of the book that you need, with ‘pdf’ just after it. You may need to look around for a bit but I’ve found a tonne of textbooks on the internet in this way – it never usually lets me down!

There’s obviously a drawback or two. If you’re anything like me, you LOVE reading a big textbook, full of confusing numbers and random squiggles. The idea of absorbing the entirety of a textbook in knowledge and intellectual prowess is immensely exciting.

But you need to be savvy – and you’re not reading this to get an intellectual buzz, are you?


How did you find Fresher’s Week? Give our advice a try and tweet us @YorkVision or comment below to let us know how you get on.

Leon Morris
Leon was previously the Editor-in-Chief 2014, having also previously worked as News Editor and Managing Director for 2013-14. His debut was as Satire Editor. He is now currently serving as Webmaster.