Want to save money on textbooks? - Macleans.ca

Want to save money on textbooks?

Loose-leaf is the way to go


Back in first year, I remember being shocked at how expensive university textbooks are. It seemed ridiculous to be paying hundreds of dollars for books that would be getting less than four months of use. And that I wouldn’t necessarily even enjoy reading.

In high school, textbooks are just something that your teacher uses to assign homework. It’s different in university. You spend hours with your textbooks every week, keeping up with readings, doing practice questions, finding quotes for an essay, or studying for an exam. They belong to you, and only you. You’ve known each other since the beginning, back when they were still covered in plastic wrap. It’s a special moment when you peel the plastic off and open a brand new textbook for the first time.

But it’s not a worth-hundreds-of-dollars kind of moment.

Buying textbooks second-hand is one common way to save money. Another solution: buying loose-leaf editions of textbooks. By sacrificing the spine and hard cover, I saved more than $70 on a loose-leaf edition of my biochemistry textbook this semester.

Buying a loose-leaf edition solves another textbook problem: instead of lugging around a 20-pound brick, I can remove all the pages I’m not using at the moment.

-photo courtesy of katerha


Want to save money on textbooks?

  1. That is an unusually large savings. Most of the cost of a textbook is because it only has a press run of a few thousand copies, not because of the cost of binding it together, which is only a dollar or two.

    Many professors also will not let you use a textbook that has been photocopied from a classmate, because of copyright restrictions. You will have to establish that you have a license to use the book from the publisher.

  2. By ‘sacrificing the spine and cover’ do you mean that you buy photocopies of your textbooks? If so, you are breaching copyright and may be fined if you are caught. Granted, the price of textbooks are high but, as Mark said, they are high because, unlike mass market books, only a few people (if you’re being cynical, members of a captive audience) buy them.

    Beyond the question of the legality of what you’re doing, I have one piece of advice: never photocopy the textbook that was written by your professor and, if you do, never bring the photocopy to class. To do so would be flaunting the fact that your professor is being deprived of his/her royalties in his/her face.

  3. I think it’s quite clear in the article that Scott Dobson-Mitchell isn’t suggesting we all go out and photocopy textbooks.

    Read: “Buying a loose-leaf edition…”

    Personally, I’ve never seen loose-leaf editions in my campus bookstore. Such a pity.

  4. Great ideas Scott!!
    Pat :)

  5. Loose-leaf editions are available at the u of Waterloo’s bookstore. Some profs actually make a point of ordering them to help save us money! I wish I could buy all my textbooks as loose-leaf additions. They’re so much cheaper!

  6. Great Article Scott and some great advice my son in University also has been buying second-hand and I beleive one loose leaf – another way that could be available soon is on an e reader. Would not that be amazingly smart?????

  7. Whoa, sorry for the confusion. I guess I should have been more clear. Brian Payne is right though, I wasn’t suggesting that anyone go out and photocopy textbooks. And if I did, you wouldn’t be reading about it here :)


  8. @ Trudy Bounds:

    Thanks! I think your son’s idea is an interesting one, I know that I would definitely like having some of my textbooks on an e-reader. Along with saving a lot of money, it would be a lot more convenient than carrying around a bunch of textbooks!