Buying Books

Showing up to class without textbooks is like a mechanic showing up to the shop without tools

Don’t get caught without your textbooks. College textbooks can get expensive, but students have options.

Below are the key things you, as a Dallas Promise student, should know to ensure you have the books and materials needed for class.

Check your Syllabus

The first, and perhaps most important, step is to look over your class syllabus to see what books are required. All DCCCD college classes post their syllabi online in the class schedule. If you are not sure of the book needed — or if you just need guidance in understanding the syllabus — always reach out to your instructor for help. Contact information will be listed on the course syllabus.

Note: Buying a book may not be required as some classes use Open Education Resources (see below about OER documents).

Buying Used vs. New

You have the option to buy either a new or a used textbook (if a book has just changed to a new edition, a used copy may not be available).

The content is the same, but you can save money buying used textbooks if you don’t mind scuffs, scribbles and highlights. Depending on the book, used books may be even more discounted through many online sources such as Chegg, Amazon, Valor, etc.

However, be very careful to check that the edition of the required book is the same as the edition listed in the syllabus (hint: search for the provided ISBN and not just the title). Also, verify that any additional support materials that may come with a new book are also available with the used book.

Renting vs. Buying

Some class textbooks are available to rent for the semester. You can rent books online through outside sources or at the campus bookstore.

Renting is usually cheaper than buying a new or used textbook. Some textbooks are available to rent as electronic books, also called “e-books” (see below about purchasing electronic books).

A drawback to renting a physical textbook is returning the book (e.g., mailing it back to the company) at the end of the semester. If you don’t return it on time, you will be charged a fee. You also have to take care of the book. It must be in the same condition when you return it (no highlighting, notes in margins, etc. – you need to read the rental conditions) or you’ll have to pay extra fees. Another drawback may be that you want to keep the text for future reference. If that is the case, remember that you always have the option to buy a new or used one later.

Purchasing electronic books through online booksellers

Some textbooks are available as electronic books or e-books. Purchasing or renting an e-book will cost less than a new or used book. This can be a good option if you don’t mind reading everything on a tablet or other electronic device. Some courses will list e-books as an option in the syllabus. E-books are available through many online services including the college bookstore. You can also check the publisher’s website to find if an e-version of the book is available.

Go to your campus library

Some instructors place a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library. Discuss with your instructor whether this option is available for your class during first week of school.

Sharing is caring

You can always ask your friends and other classmates if you can borrow their textbooks from classes they have completed.

Using PELL Grants to pay for your books

Federal Pell Grants are awarded with your general financial aid. The DCCCD Financial Aid office can tell you if you qualify. You can use Pell Grants to cover a variety of costs that may include:

  • Tuition and fees normally assessed;
  • Books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses;
  • Living expenses, such as room and board;
  • An allowance for costs expected to be incurred for dependent care for a student with dependents.

For specific information about how to use your PELL money to buy books, please contact Financial Aid at 972-587-2599.

What are OER books/materials (and how to find out if they are available for a class)

Unlike printed textbooks, Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials available online. They may be accessed from within eCampus or through a third-party website. OER texts are low- or no-cost e-texts. Since they are digital, it makes them easily compatible with screen readers and BrailleNotes. The books are available for download from a website. Classes with OER materials will almost always list the materials in the class syllabus.

How to budget for books

Step one is to gather the facts. You should review the syllabus for each of your classes and make a list of the required texts and class materials. From there, shop and make price comparisons at the college bookstore and online retailers. Review any financial aid awards (e.g., PELL) and scholarships to see if they will pay for books.

Once you identify the books needed and the costs on different websites, you can decide what works best for each. Remember, you may have a mix of purchased and rented books and OER materials. If you plan ahead, you can purchase all your materials over several weeks or months before classes begin and not have to do it all at once.

Things to verify — Edition, required for class or recommended

Always go back to the class syllabus to verify the edition of the required textbook. Buying a different edition of a textbook can cause problems later — especially if specific homework assigned from the book is dependent on a particular edition. Always check with your instructor if a different edition is acceptable for the course. Also, some materials are marked as “recommended,” and although they are not required to complete class assignments, they may provide benefits to learning the material.

Selling Back — Information about how to sell back purchased textbooks

College bookstores have a “buyback” period at the end of the semester when they will buy back used textbooks. Bookstores may not buy back all textbooks if they know a new edition will be released soon (which usually happens every three to four years) or if a different book will be used next semester.

Online services are available for buying back used textbooks. Some sites where you buy books online are also places where you may sell your books. Chegg.com and Amazon.com both buy used books. Sites such as cash4books.net will let you know how much a used book is worth. You pack up and ship your books (the company usually pays the postage) and a check is mailed to you. The service is convenient, and it may be worth comparing the price with the college bookstore price.