1) Shop smart. First of all, ask your professor if you even need all the books on his/her list. Sometimes they list a ton of guidebooks and workbooks when the only one you definitely need for the class is the textbook itself. But check before you assume you only need the textbook because some professors use different sources for homework and you’ll be out of luck if what you need is sitting in the bookstore taunting you or, worse yet, sold out! If you insist on buying from the school bookstore buy used copies. They may look a little banged up but they’ll keep you going until the end of the term, especially if someone kindly highlighted the important information for you. Even the “out of date” copies that your professor insists are useless are more often than not EXACTLY the same as the newest edition of the book. The only differences are better looking pictures most times. Unless the edition is five years or older you can probably get away with getting an older copy. $70 still not a good enough deal? Try buying used copies off Amazon or eBay where prices are more likely to match your budget.
2) Rent! Why should you pay full price for a book you’ll only use for about 60-90 days? Websites like BookRenter.com and CampusBookSwap.org allow you to rent books for LOWER than the price of used books for the amount of time you need it. They’ll even allow you to customize your order to fit your school periods (semesters, quarter, and summer term). Most times these sites will send you your book within 4-7 days, so you can have it before class starts. If that’s still too much money for you to spend try SwapSimple.com. This site would be a little trickier because it depends on other users but the most you’d pay for an available book is $2! That is DEFINITELY a good deal!
3) Trade off. Why spend any money at all? Simply trade books with friends on campus. If your roommate just had the chemistry class you’re about to take and you just aced that history final that your roommate will be taking next term why not trade books for free? Saves you money, saves your buddy money, and both of you can study right away instead of waiting for the bookstore to cooperate (plus you can help each other find things in the books that are important for tests since you already know the professor and the class).
Keep in mind that there are also eTextbooks out there but it’s very limited right now. Ask your professor if s/he knows if the book for the class is offered electronically and if so where you can download it.