The majority of university courses, no matter which university you go to, require their students to buy their own textbooks. It is no surprise that these books when bought brand new can be pretty expensive.
Different courses will require different types and amounts of textbooks for their students. If you need a lot, you might find that most of your budget goes towards these books. Because of this, most students choose to buy their textbooks second-hand in order to save their money. But where are the best places to buy second-hand university textbooks and what are the benefits of buying your textbooks from a second-hand source?
In this article, I will be listing 5 of the best places to look for second-hand university textbooks (in my personal opinion). Hopefully, by the end of this article you will be able to go out and search for your university textbooks at a much cheaper price with confidence!
1. Charity Shops
Nearly every British high street has at least one charity shop – you can barely walk a few metres without running into one.
Next time you see one, have a quick look in the book section for the textbooks you need. Often, former students miss the opportunity to sell their old textbooks and decide to simply donate them. Students often donate them to shops such as Oxfam and Cancer Research UK to get rid of them to make space in their house.
By buying your textbooks from charity shops, you are not just getting a bargain, you are also supporting charities with their research! Books in charity shops never tend to cost more than £10.
Don’t forget! If you find that there are no charity shops close to you or that you cannot access one in person, most charity shops nowadays have their own online stores. The most popular of these online stores is Oxfam, but there are many others. The only drawback is that you will probably have to pay for postage on top of your items.
The most common chains of charity shops in the UK include:
- British Heart Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Age UK
If you do choose to go to one of these charity shops in person, you are also supporting the British High Street which has been negatively impacted by the pandemic in recent years.
Charity shops aren’t just great for books, though. It is becoming increasingly popular to shop at charity shops to find vintage clothes and other accessories. You could go with friends to make it more fun!
Basically, if you buy something from the charity shop, it is a complete win-win situation, so get shopping at your local charity shop, you’ve got nothing to lose!
2. EBay And Other Online Marketplaces
Another great place to look for your university textbooks is on online marketplaces such as eBay.
It is so easy to list items, get them seen by many people up and down the country and around the world and send them off. Because of this many former students decide to sell their items online to make a bit of cash or make some space at home.
On websites like eBay and Depop, you can find people selling their books from up and down the country. This means that you have more of a chance of finding exactly what you are looking for, for a much lower price.
You could even find other books related to your required textbooks at knockdown prices.
Depop tends to have the most recent editions of university textbooks. Because of how easy it is to list items using the app and the majority of its users being students or former students themselves, so it is a good idea to look there.
Examples of online marketplaces which are good for textbooks include:
All of these websites also have apps so you can keep looking for the books you need on the go!
Make Sure You Barter Down the Price
The majority of these websites offer the chance to try and knock down the price of the items you want even more with the seller.
It is a good idea to message the seller and ask for an even lower price before buying on these sites as you may save yourself some cash. EBay even offers an auction function which lets you bid on items with other people if you are trying to get a book which is quite hard to come by.
You will probably have to pay for shipping for the items you buy on these websites/apps. These costs vary depending on how far away the item is from you, but most of the time you are getting the book for a much lower price anyway. In some cases, you may be able to go and pick up the books if the seller lives close to you.
3. Facebook Marketplace
Similar to eBay and Depop, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to look for your textbooks due to the fact that it is so easy to list items.
The thing that sets Facebook Marketplace apart from the rest, though, is that you are shown listings from people close to you – family, friends, neighbours, and people in your local area.
The benefit of this is that there is the option to collect what you have bought instead of having it shipped to you at an extra cost.
Similar to eBay and Depop, you can try to knockdown the price of the books further with the seller on Facebook Marketplace in order to get even more of a bargain.
Collecting items in your local area also helps you do your bit for the environment as it saves the fuel that would be needed to have your books shipped across the country.
However, you must be careful and make sure that whoever you are buying the books from is genuine.
If they are asking you to come and collect the books and you are not sure, then you should either refuse or get them to meet you in a public place with someone you know (a member of your family or a friend, for example).
Even if you are desperate for these books, you shouldn’t put yourself in danger over them, it is not worth it.
4. World of Books
World Of Books is a website dedicated to selling on second-hand books at much lower prices than they would be brand new.
They offer thousands and thousands of different titles, and the prices vary depending on the quality of the book (like new, very good, used etc).
Most of the time you can buy a brand-new book for a fraction of the price you would find on other websites such as Amazon. World Of Books source their books mostly from charity shops, so by buying from them you are indirectly supporting various independent charities.
Not only do they offer fiction and non-fiction books, but they also sell rare books, CDs, vinyl, DVDs, and video games. If this wasn’t enough, the packaging they use is completely recyclable and environmentally friendly!
When searching for your textbooks on World of Books, make sure that you are being very specific – they tend to have multiple editions of the same books, so if you want the most updated versions, you need to be specific.
5. Family and Friends
You may not need to buy your textbooks at all! Ask around you friends and family. Perhaps your older cousin used the same textbooks for their degree. Or your brother’s friend has one of the books that you need. You could save yourself a lot of money by simply asking around the people in your social circle.
You could even put out a request on social media for the books that you need. Make a post on Facebook, for example, asking if any of your family or friends have access to any copies of the books you need (be sure to mention the edition you need, too). Nowadays, the power of social media is huge, and posts can get shared far and wide.
Of course, if you find that someone you know has the books that you need, you must be prepared for them to ask for you to pay for them, especially if they paid full price for them and they are in good condition.
You can’t expect to be given them for free but at the same time, make sure that you aren’t paying too much for them either. If the person is asking for the same amount of money for their books as they are brand new, you should obviously think about just buying the books brand new. They will be in better condition.
6. Car Boot Sales
Another source of old university textbooks is car boot sales.
Often, these places are full of people simply trying to make space in their houses by getting rid of things they don’t need or don’t use anymore. Books are a very common thing to be sold there, especially ones that people have no use for anymore.
Car boot sales usually take place on weekends and bank holidays, so get researching online about your closest car boot sale – you might find a bargain!
One of the downsides to getting your books from people who have used them in the past is that they may be outdated. University textbooks usually have new editions being released as the curriculum changes, so you should check and double check the editions you need for your course.
Important Things to Remember When Buying Second Hand Books
As I previously mentioned, the most important thing to remember when buying your university textbooks is that there are many editions of the same books. The content can greatly vary from edition to edition, so you must double check with the list your university provides you with which editions of which books you need.
Another thing to be aware of is that there is always the possibility of being scammed online. The best advice to take is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Be sure to ask questions about the books you find to the seller. If you are getting suspicious, you might want to ask for more pictures of the books. If the only pictures shown are ones that come up from a quick Google search of the book, this should be a red flag to you.
You shouldn’t let someone pressure you into buying a book from them. If someone is being aggressive or pushy about you buying their book, this is another red flag. You should seriously check whether or not this person is actually selling the book and not trying to scam you.
At the end of the day, you are going to want to look for the cheapest price for the book in the best condition. Just because someone you know is trying to sell their book to you doesn’t mean you have to buy it – maybe the book is in bad condition, you should not buy it to be nice.
You should always search for cheaper ways to get the books that you need. If you end up saving money on your books, you can put it towards something bigger for you to enjoy!