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The policy mandates that the ISBN and price of required and recommended textbooks be listed for classes offered by any institution receiving federal funding for financial aid.

As you register for classes and start seeing their reading lists on CourseWorks, you’ll soon come to realize that textbooks can get pretty pricey. However, instead of rushing to your nearest bookstore or ordering all your required textbooks on Amazon, you should know that there are countless ways to circumvent paying full cost for your textbooks—and Spectrum has compiled a list for you.

Bookstore near campus

Before we start off with more affordable options, you should know that the Columbia Bookstore and Book Culture, a bookstore four blocks away from campus, both sell textbooks and will stock up on books based on course lists. They both also have buyback policies that allow you to sell your textbooks back to them for a certain percentage of the original prices. The Columbia Bookstore allows you to sell your books back to them for up to 50 percent of your cash back and Book Culture will pay you up to 20 percent in in-store credit.

Using CLIO

The Columbia Libraries Catalog is a catalog of all the books available across all Columbia and Barnard libraries. You can look up any textbooks you need and find their specific location in one of the many libraries on campus. There might even be links to find online versions of the textbook on one of the many databases Columbia grants students access to. If you only need a small portion of a book, you can request for the pages to be scanned and sent to your computer. Alternatively, you can print out the online text with your PawPrint quota if you are someone who likes to annotate their notes by hand.

If the textbooks you find are all checked out of the libraries near you, you can use the Borrow Direct services to get the book delivered from other universities to a library near you on campus. It’s a great service that students usually don’t know about, which increases your chances of finding the book you’re looking for.

If you are a first-generation, low-income student, both Barnard and Columbia libraries collaborate with the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership to offer students a collection of textbooks they can borrow at the beginning of the semester. You can check the availability of these textbooks on CLIO.

Online rentals

Through Chegg, Amazon, and other similar websites, you can rent used books for cheaper prices for the semester. Not only is renting cheaper, but it also allows you to save on storage space over the summer since you don’t have to worry about lugging home stacks of heavy books. You can also purchase e-book versions on Amazon available on Kindle for significantly lower prices. Not only will you save up on storage space, but you’ll also get to keep the book since you’ll be purchasing it. This could be particularly useful if next semester starts out online.


Both Columbia and Barnard have Facebook groups in which students can sell clothes, furniture, and textbooks they don’t need anymore. Book sales usually increase toward the start and end of the semester, so you should join the groups before school starts to take advantage of the bargain prices. Moreover, if you are in search of a textbook, don’t hesitate to ask in the Facebook group—you never know who would be willing to give or sell it to you!

Finally, we also recommend holding off on buying textbooks until you get the full, updated syllabus, or emailing your professor to ask if you’ll be using all the books listed on CourseWorks. Sometimes, you’ll end up buying a book that the professor mentions once throughout the semester and wasting the money you could have used on something else. You can also ask students who have taken your classes whether they recommend getting all the textbooks. Just make sure to double-check with the syllabus and professor before buying!

Staff writer Lina Bennani Karim can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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