Bookstore Beware: Save big bucks on books with these 11 tips for ASU students

It’s the middle of October and while pacing back and forth in your room, pouring over lecture notes and getting ready for midterms, you stub your toe on something under your bed. After sitting and assessing the damage, you bend over to see what the offender was. Oh look, it’s that writing textbook you haven’t cracked open since the first day of class. You wince at the memory of how expensive it was and groan at the thought of travelling to all of the different campuses to find the right book, all while cursing your professor because you didn’t even need it. Most students have been there at one point or another, so I’m here to set the record straight.

I worked at a college bookstore during my senior year of high school and my freshman year at Arizona State University, so I like to think I know a thing or two about what people do wrong when getting their textbooks every semester. These are the 11 things I wish I could have told you before you stubbed a toe on that book. 

(Why 11? If you saw "Stranger Things" this summer, you’ll understand.)


11. Don’t have your parents buy your books for you.

I get it. It’s just easier to pass off the task to someone else, but your parents shouldn’t have to run errands for you. It’s also a disservice to yourself because if you aren’t sure which books you need, they have even less of an idea. You could even end up with the wrong book.

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By Alexandra Gaspar | The State Press

Spanish books at Palabras bookstore in downtown Phoenix on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015.

10. Pay attention to the receipt!

You can’t return anything at the bookstore without a receipt. Whether you agree with the rule or not, that’s how it is, so make sure you keep tabs on it. Second, if you wait to buy your books after going to class, you will have one week or less to return them for a full refund with the receipt. We tell you this in the spiel we give everyone at the end of every single transaction and we circle it on every single receipt.

9. We can only help you if you know what class you’re taking.

Laugh now, but this could be you in the future. We get people in the store all the time who ask for help finding a book and when we ask what class the book is for, they don’t know. The bookstore organizes books by class. If you don’t know what class the book is for, there’s no way we can help you, especially during the first week of classes. There are too many people to be able to look up book titles for everyone, and you can’t expect us to have all the titles memorized.

8. Books are campus-specific.

Pay close attention to which campus your class is on. If you have a class on the Polytechnic campus, your book will definitely be on that campus and that campus only. If your class is online, in my experience, the book is 90 percent likely to be at the Tempe campus. And have you been to that bookstore? It’s huge.

7. Books with access codes are NOT going to come used, even if it lists a used price online.

Yeah, it sucks. We get it. Just remember we have to buy these books too. It got on my nerves when people complained about this one because they always made me feel like it was my fault. Loose-leafed books wrapped up in plastic usually come with access codes and these codes can only be used ONCE. Because the codes can only be used once, the book isn’t going to be available used. Please don’t walk in and expect a used version of one of these books.

6. Two words: Staff. Discount.

If you, a friend or a family member works for the University, you can get your books for 10 percent off. If you aren’t the one who works for ASU, they’ll have to buy your books for you, so keep that in mind. Also, staff discounts can not be used toward rented books because rented books are already offered at a discount. It’s not much, but it can save you upwards of $20 on some of those “ASU-only” book packages, which you could use on pizza for you and your friends.

5. Renting books isn’t that complicated.

I was always surprised when people came in and asked if the rental price for a book was monthly. What? That doesn’t make any sense. The book would be way more expensive than if you bought it that way and that’s not what the point of renting books is. After the cashier makes your rental account, make sure you login at home and input all your information or the next time you come in to rent a book, you’ll be waiting around a long time for us to update this for you. Also: TURN IN YOUR BOOKS ON TIME. When people came in expecting to turn their books in three weeks late after their credit card was charged and expected a refund, we’d always get in heated discussions about why they couldn’t get their money back.

4. Call ahead.

The bookstore isn’t perfect. Sometimes we run out of books and then have to wait a week or two for the publisher to send more to them. They can’t control that. It’s always best to call ahead with the book’s ISBN number and check that it’s actually in stock, either at the campus your class is at or at one of the other campuses.

3. Figure out what an ISBN number is.

This isn’t the book’s barcode per se, but every book has a unique ISBN number. The number is usually located on the back of the book, hovering just above the barcode, and always starts with 978. A quick cheat for making sure you have the right version of a book for your class is to compare the last four digits of the ISBN on your book list and on the physical book.

2. Surf the web for your books.

If you’re looking to save money, take the ISBN number from your book list and check the following sites: AbeBooksAmazonBarnes and Noble and Chegg. It can be a bit of a pain to order your books from a bunch of different websites, but in the end you could save a good chunk of dough. An added bonus: if you rent a book from one of these sites, they will include a return shipping label, which means you won’t have to pay to ship the book back to the company.

1. Wait for your professor to tell you that you will ABSOLUTELY use the book.

This is the biggest tip I can give students. It’s a little risky waiting until class starts to get your books because the bookstore might run out of them, but this way you definitely won’t get stuck with a book you don’t need. If you’re someone who has to have everything before class starts, email your professor. They might take a while to get back to you because they are also on summer vacation, but I promise it’s well worth it.


Did you catch all of that, freshmen? Perfect, now you're ready to set out and take the collegiate world by storm -- and saving a chunk of change while doing so. 

Wait, here's tip No. 12: After you're done buying books, saving money, studying hard, and acing your exams, go watch "Stranger Things." You won't be disappointed. 


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