Now that it's the second week of classes and you (hopefully) have your schedules figured out, the next item on many of your agendas is finding some way to get the necessary textbooks (that, or how to succeed without actually getting them).
Unfortunately, textbooks can be a college student's greatest (and least-anticipated) expense. Analyzing all your buying options while simultaneously balancing school work and life is hard enough. Thankfully, Spectrum has researched the trends of textbook prices from the most common sellers for some of Columbia's most common classes.
Amazon (buy new, used, and rented)
Amazon ended up being the cheapest option for most of the books, and it's likely that its Prime shipping is one of the fastest. The best option in terms of price seems to be renting books from Amazon, which is as much as nine times cheaper than buying the book new.
The only downside is you'll have to return the book by a certain date and will need to pay a fee if you want to keep it longer than that. If you must buy your textbooks, Amazon also offers the best prices for both new and used books.
Barnes & Noble
This trusty bookstore let us down when it came to textbook pricing. Though they're not the most expensive option for each book, you have better choices. Indeed, a couple of the books were the same price on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but for members of Amazon Prime (which offers a free trial to all college students, in case you didn't already know), the ruling will likely lean toward Amazon's free and faster shipping.
It seems that when you buy books from the University Bookstore, you're paying mostly for convenience. However, if you need a book ASAP and can't spare the time to wait for shipping, they offer sensible prices and books that will be ready for pickup soon after your order. The major downside to the CU bookstore is that they don't carry every textbook, so if you're looking for a one-stop shopping destination, you might not find it here.
Don't get me wrong—I'm a lover of independent bookstores and the fluffy white dogs which frequent them, but Book Culture's textbook prices personally offended me. If you are desperately pressed for a book, Book Culture is likely to have it in stock. However, if you have the luxury of time, buy your textbooks from another seller.
When all else fails...
Alternative options include accessing textbooks via the Butler reserves, as well as checking for other students selling books through flyers on your dorm floor or on Facebook pages like Buy | Sell | Trade at Barnard and Columbia's Free & For Sale.
If you're not morally opposed to free online access to textbooks, ask around for codes from former students. If you're looking for a novel, check out Project Gutenberg, which is an effort to digitize tens of thousands of popular books. If you're looking for a straight-up textbook, do a peachy keen Google search. ;)
Now you have no excuse to put off doing the reading because you didn't get the book. No promises, however, that once you get the book you'll actually do your work.
Mariella Evangelista is a Barnard first-year and a Spectrum staff writer. She's too lazy to find books anywhere besides Buy | Sell | Trade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where you can send her textbooks.