For Students

Top Textbooks on Reserve Program

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The Student Government Association partnered with the University Libraries to stock textbooks used in University of Maryland's top enrolled courses. Students can check out the books from the McKeldin Library circulation desk for two hours at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click here to view the list of the courses included in this program.

Tips for Saving Money

Many students spend a significant amount of money on textbooks, in addition to the cost of tuition, transportation, and incidental costs. Here are some tips to help you save money:

  • Search online to compare different buying options. Sometimes shopping online can be cheaper than in stores or vice versa. Here are some good places to start looking: Amazon.com, Chegg.com, Half.com
  • Consider purchasing used books. Many websites and bookstores sell used books in good or fair condition. With a little effort, you can save money and still own a functional copy of the textbook.
  • Take advantage of websites that compare online prices. They gather all the information for you and offer convenient price comparisons (i.e. slugbooks.com).
  • Some websites, such as Ebates.com, offer cash back on online purchases.
  • Consider renting your textbooks. If the textbook is expensive, the rental cost will likely be a lot cheaper. Renting is also a good idea if you won’t need to reuse the text in future classes.
  • It may not always be the best option, so consider the sell-back value of books to determine if you can get more money back from buying and selling later. Some websites may even guarantee a buy-back value for your book at the end of the year.
  • Search for coupons and special discounts. These savings add up and can dramatically reduce textbook costs.
  • If there are offers for purchases over a certain amount, consider if the savings are worth purchasing multiple books from one site.
  • Consider buying e-books. Many times, they are more affordable and convenient to access.
  • Try to buy your books from other students who have taken the courses. This saves you the shipping cost and usually is cheaper than purchasing from a store or online seller.

Where to Buy

You can purchase textbooks from several vendors, websites, and stores. In College Park, you can go to the University Book Center, Bookholders, and the Maryland Book Exchange. On the internet, you can search for textbooks using the ISBN, author, or title. Some popular websites are Amazon.com, Chegg.com, and Half.com. In addition to the resources above, try using more creative places to find textbooks. Check local bookstores and libraries to see if they stock your textbook. Ask students and friends to see if they have a copy they would be willing to sell.

How to Talk to Your Professors

If you are having difficulty purchasing a textbook because of the cost, speak to your professor. They will help direct you to affordable options. Ask for permission to use an older edition of the text if one is available. Ask your professor to check if the book is available through the University Libraries on course reserves.

Discuss open source educational materials with your professors. Be prepared with examples of open-source resources that are applicable to your course. Introduce open source textbooks and reading materials as an alternative option that is significantly more affordable for students. Be sure to emphasize the efficacy of the materials, as this is a paramount concern for educators.

Importance of Textbooks

Textbooks give students access to information with ease. If you want to succeed in your classes, or if you need to catch up, a textbook is an essential tool. In addition to their accessibility, textbooks also go into more depth than a professor does in a lecture. College students need to balance the cost of textbooks with the need for access. This can be done by shopping around, checking out books from the library, and renting textbooks.

What Is Important When Buying Textbooks

When buying textbooks, it is important to look at the quality and efficacy of the book. This means it must be relevant to the subject, written in a way that complements the professors teaching style, and covers all important topics that the professor deems relevant. It also must be written in appropriate language in terms of complexity and clarity. The textbook should be geared toward the level of the class. For example, if the class is a 100-level class, there should be different language than the textbook for a 400-level class.

However, when a professor or a committee chooses a textbook, open source or library materials should be considered first to see if there are reliable sources. This might show that there are a large amount of resources available that are either free or very cheap and can serve students just as well, if not better than a traditional textbook. Traditional textbooks should be one of the last options considered. This could also incentivize the university to make more open source textbooks or alternative materials more widely available.

When picking a traditional textbook, it should be taken into consideration the price of the overall textbook as well as the price of any software that comes with the textbook, regardless of whether the software is required or recommended. These can add extra costs that can become a large burden to students. It should also be taken into consideration the possibility of using the textbook over multiple semesters. Some classes such as calculus and biological sciences already utilize this and it is a great way to help lower the costs of textbooks over an extended period of time.

Taking all of these factors into consideration will greatly help all students and allow them to have access to the same amount of materials.

Did You Know?

  • College textbook prices increased by 186% between 1986 and 2004. (U.S. Department of Education)
  • An open source textbook is just like any textbook, except it has a nonrestricted copyright license
  • UMD estimates students spend $1,130 on books and supplies. (Office of Admissions)
  • 48% of Maryland students say that textbook prices affect which/how many classes they choose to take. (SGA and MaryPIRG survey)
  • 65% of Maryland student consumers have opted out of buying a college textbook due to its high price. (SGA and MaryPIRG survey)
  • In Fall 2014, students saved $873,393.00 at the University Book Center (UBC) by purchasing used books and renting their textbooks. (University Book Center)

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