The Notorious B.I.G once said, "Mo money, mo problems"... but my comrades in college already know that's complete bull. Mo money = mo money, plain and simple. However, I wouldn't know the sweet taste of having "mo money." Textbook prices have robbed me of that privilege.
The same probably goes for you. Take this book of horrors: Calculus: Early Transcendentals, 8th Edition by James Stewart (because God forbid you have the significantly cheaper 7th or 6th edition). Beloved by Columbia's math department. (Seriously, this shit will carry you through Calc IV.) Hated by frugal, lazy students who can't stand impossible word problems (i.e., me).
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as you are, you wander on down to the bookstore. Turns out they want to charge you $343 for this brick. Well, you grumble, at least it comes with the Webassign code. You walk out broke and defeated.
It doesn't have to be like this. There are plenty of options beyond 115th street.
I'm sorry for being so predictable, but even Amazon has better deals on textbooks than the CU bookstore. Buying new, you could get the same
brick of horrors textbook for nearly $100 cheaper at $250.72. Used, as low as $139.59. Rent it and it would only cost $43.08, an 87.44% discount. (Not that it's actually included in the calculus curriculum, but I did the math. Hopefully it's correct.)
The New York Times once called Chegg "the Netflix of book rental companies." 1.) You love Netflix. 2.) If the NYTimes says so, it must be true. (Was that sarcasm? Even I can't tell.) For this specific textbook, the renting price is about the same as Amazon's, but to purchase it new is about $40 dollars cheaper.
This book isn't the best display of their discounts, but judging by the amount of Chegg boxes abandoned in the mailroom trash bin, I'd say plenty of people have had success.
Maybe you're like me: No matter how vivid the images of last-minute cramming and related rate problems are in your head, you can't find a way to leave calculus. You're in it for the long haul, so it might be financially wise if you bought the textbook. However, if you're treating math like last year's summer fling, there's no harm in renting.
In that case, Book Renter is a feasible option. The prices vary depending on how long you need to rent the book, and would you look at that: The 125 day option, just $49.80, is enough to get you through finals. (Again, emphasis on rental. The "buy new" price will reinstate your tears.)
Yes, those big, sad structures of oppression and despair. As luck would have it, textbooks are frequently put on reserve at the libraries here on campus. The book I've been bashing, for example, exists in several copies at the Mathematics Reserve.
Sure, you can't really check these books out for months at a time, but with a price tag of $0.00, it's a sacrifice you just might be willing to make.
The messiah of all eBooks. Granted, you might have a harder time finding materials for your STEM-related classes, but Gutenberg is loaded with literature and novels. (Throwing a bone to all the folks struggling through LitHum: The Confessions of St. Augustine, the second book on the spring syllabus, is there. So is The Divine Comedy.)
When Gutenberg.com can't satisfy your textbook needs, EBOOKEE is not a bad second option. The only prereq: Register for a free account. For completely free textbooks, you can put up with a little bit of spam.
It'll take some nosing around, so the best thing I can suggest is to deal-hunt as if it were Black Friday: Click around, avoid computer viruses, and save yo' money. After all, mo money = mo money.