Undergraduate Student Government
at The Ohio State University

Textbook Buying Tips

1. You don’t always have to buy your books before classes start.

When should I buy my textbooks?

New students often feel they will be unprepared for class if they don’t purchase their textbooks either before they move in or even at orientation. This is not necessarily true -- students should only buy textbooks in advance if the professor explicitly states on the syllabus or via email that the textbook will be used on the first day of class. 

Will I get in trouble with my professor if I don’t have the textbook on the first day of class?

Professors are generally understanding of students waiting to purchase textbooks and often wait a few days before assigning readings or assignments from the textbook. This policy, however, is contingent on the course layout; students should check the syllabi or email their professor to ask them when they will first need the textbook for assignments or readings.

2. Be sure to distinguish required textbooks from recommended textbooks.

What is the difference between a recommended textbook and a required textbook?

Required textbooks in courses are crucial to the completion of assignments and readings. On the other hand, recommended textbooks are suggested materials that will help enhance a student’s knowledge on certain topics covered in the class, but will not be used for assignments. 

How can I distinguish one from the other?

On many course syllabi, professors will clarify if a certain textbook is a recommended or required purchase, and students can determine for themselves if the recommended book is worth buying. Now and then, however, the discrepancy will not be noted on the syllabus. Students are encouraged to examine their course syllabi for any textbook-compulsory assignments, inquire in an email to a professor, or ask their professor in person on the first day of class. 

Are recommended textbooks usually helpful?

Recommended textbooks are supplementary study tools. Professors will sometimes post open source pdf versions of recommended readings. It is highly encouraged that students get in contact with their professors to determine how helpful any recommended textbooks will be to their study in the course. 

3. Explore your many options.

A main obstacle to informing first-year students on the many ways to save money in regards to textbook is simply making them aware of options through which they can purchase textbooks. Several of these alternate institutions are:

  • USG's Textbook Exchange Network – TEN is a platform for students to buy and sell used textbooks at prices determined by and negotiated between other students.  Full proceeds go back to students upon the sale of their textbook.  All physical literature required for an OSU course is acceptable for TEN, including but not limited to curriculum textbooks, literature novels, and language workbooks.  For more information on how to register for participation with TEN, please contact the current Academic Affairs Director of USG.
  • The Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) CarmenBooks database – CarmenBooks is an Inclusive Access program that offers digital copies of selected textbooks for a fraction of the cost of a new, phsyical copy, as well as discounted access to publisher homework systems.
  • Second-hand bookshops – Student Book Exchange on High Street is a prominent example.
  • Ohio State students who have already taken the class
  • Directly from the textbook publisher (specific example being MyMathLab or other Pearson portals)
  • Online retailers, such as Amazon
  • University Libraries' Textbook Reserve – University Libraries has purchased nearly 1000 print copies of various textbooks. Students have the opportunity use these books during certain time slots free of charge. 

4. Ohio State’s partnership with Barnes and Noble provides students with several affordable options.

  1. Used Textbooks – Barnes and Noble offers used textbooks for a wide variety of classes. These books are often marked up with highlighting and notes from former students, but if these things don’t distract you, buying textbooks used can save students a significant amount of money.
  2. Renting Textbooks – Students have the opportunity to cut back on textbook costs by renting materials from Barnes and Noble. Books can be rented for entire semesters and must be returned during finals week. Barnes and Noble makes the entire checking out and returning process extremely straight forward.
  3. Price-Matching
    1. The campus bookstore will match the prices of textbooks from Amazon.com, BN.com, and local competitors. We would like to make incoming students aware of this option, as it is a policy that is often overlooked or unknown.
    2. Many students are cautious when it comes to purchasing their books from alternate online sources, so price-matching by a reputable seller is a big help in improving access to more affordable textbook options.
    3. https://bnc.pgtb.me/0X3s0B is the link to a Barnes and Noble PDF that provides more information on this helpful policy. If this image could be included in any emails about textbooks, we feel it would be very helpful for students.

We hope new students seriously consider these options when purchasing their course materials. The Ohio State University is aware that textbook costs are often a huge financial burden for students and offers several options to help alleviate the stresses of affordability.

Thank you,

OSU Undergraduate Student Government

Academic Affairs Committee