To buy or not to buy? That is the question on textbooks

Just before new semester starts, we have some thoughts that we think you might find informative, especially for those freshmen, or JAFFY as they call it in the down under land. It is the ultimate questions regarding textbooks that have baffled mankind for centuries. 

To buy, or not to buy? That is the question. Also, where and how to buy if you do want to buy? Don’t worry, we have got you covered here at AFIS. 

First of all, should you buy textbooks at all?

This might sound like a counterintuitive or even stupid question, if you come from certain countries in Asia where teachers teach page by page based on text books, and where textbooks cost virtually nothing. In Australia, and unfortunately many other international destination for international students like USA or the UK. Textbooks are heavily copyrighted and the whole industry is a very lucrative business. Not that there is nothing wrong with that, we are all for protection for intellectual property and fair motivation and renumeration for hard work. When they cost sometimes up to $200 each, however, you really want to start being smart about it. 

If you stick to the run-of-the-mill buy as told tactic, you might find yourself a few thousand dollars short every year just one text book, money that can be better spent on other finer things in life. Many subjects, speaking from experience and you know, general common sense, the professor will teach you everything you need to know, in class. They will have everything that is important in the lecture slides, and online materials which they hand it out to you. It is not uncommon for someone to purchase a brand new textbook, and it stays in pristine condition at the end of the semester, as the same time getting HD for the subject.

With that being said, how do you weight out your options? There are several ways. First, learn from your peers! Go to your prospective student forums, students Facebook pages, discussion groups, online unit review, or just ask people around, and see if the people who have already done the subject think it is necessary to purchase the textbook. Secondly, why not just ask your professor him or herself? Some professor will even tell you online, in Moodle, or through email at the beginning of the semester, whether or not if the textbook is highly recommended. Lastly, go to your unit guide and just suss things out yourself. Normally, if it’s a maths heavy, or for an economics subject, you more or less will have most essential, testable information in the lecture slides, and getting HDs based just on them, and attention classes, is not all that difficult if you actually take notes and listen. 

For some subjects, purchasing textbooks might be unavoidable. For example, most law subjects are open book subjects, so having a textbook around for exams is definitely handy, and overall is just good for reading and understanding. With that being said, however, there is a saying that if you need to open the text book during an open book exam, then you already failed half way. Which is sort of true in many ways. Many people choose to go to the library and read the prescribed text there for free, and make their own condensed and exam relevant notes. They then print out maybe 20-30 pages of all relevant and examinable contents of which they take in, and that is still more than adequate to ace the exam. 

Now, you really want to have the text book and have the comfort of knowing that you have them? There are still many better ways to get them cheaper than the all-evil on campus book store. Most student portals also include a marketplace function, where students use to buy and sell used textbooks, you can the same text books for much cheaper. Also, many online facebook groups, such as MonashSellYourSpace for Monash University serve the same purpose, thought items are not just limited to text books. A simple google search will yield many relevant used book pages for your perspective university. Things to keep in mind though, make sure you check the condition, as well as the edition of the textbook before you make a deal and offer. Moreover, websites such as,, and all have classifieds for textbooks, give them a shot if you can’t find anything from your own university students. If you really really want to buy new, also use online retailers, which normally give you a 5-10% cheaper price than the bookstore on campus. 

At the end of the day, it is really your own decision whether to buy or not to buy, and your own choice where to buy, either a big more money for convenience, or a bit hassle to save a few bucks. Happy book hunting! 

Some Online Retailers include: