The Most Expensive College Textbooks and Why You Should Skip Them

Being a college student is so expensive! Textbooks can really add on to that mountain of money you need to pay every semester. Some textbooks in particular are very costly. How can you get around paying that hefty fee? Learn which books not to buy and how you can get along without them.

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By Laura Allan

With the average student spending about $1,000 on textbooks each year, you might be dreading your next trip to the school bookstore. Don't worry, there are a few tricks to keeping more cash in your pocket. You should always look for used copies of books, or softcover editions when available, because sometimes those are cheaper. With used books you may even find a few helpful learning tips in the margins from previous students, or at least some fun jokes. If you're willing to go used, ask around campus to see if other students who took the class before still have their copies and are willing to part with them for a smaller fee. There are, however, a few textbooks that you should not purchase at all if possible. Let's take a look at America's five most expensive texts and discuss ways you can make do without them.

Acta Philosophorum: The First Journal of Philosophy

We all like to wonder about the nature of our universe and mankind, but do you really need to spend $1,450 to do it? This primer believes that yes, you do. With that kind of money, you should be able to pay for all your textbooks and have some left over! This book is old, rare and hard to find. It's one of the first journals ever published about philosophy, as the name suggests, and very few classes use it. No online versions of this book are available and used copies still cost about $900. If you're entering into a philosophy course and notice that this book is on the reading list, maybe it's time to drop the class. You might also suggest an alternative text to your professor. If they can't be convinced and the class isn't necessary for your major, seriously consider a different course.

Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications

Encyclopedias are excellent resources when you need to just flip to a page for information. That being said, this one costs you a whopping $1,215. However, thanks to the Internet, there's some relief to be found. Through the website SciVerse (that's you can find a chapter-by-chapter PDF breakdown of this book. You'll still have to pay a pretty penny for these articles (a little more than $30 per entry, it seems) but that sounds a lot nicer than $1,200, especially if you only need to read a couple for your class. If you need a bunch, you can try finding copies on Amazon (many run in the mid-$400s) or, again, finding another class to take.

Management Science: An Anthology

Unlike encyclopedias, anthologies tend to be things you discuss in class on a regular basis. That makes this particular book a little more difficult to get around. However, with the cost coming in at $850, you should make the effort. One way to avoid buying the whole text is to find the parts you need in other books. This particular text consists of three volumes of studies, reports and papers, all of which have been studied in-depth elsewhere as well. Check with the professor to see what's being covered next week and and look for less expensive books that have the same studies or papers. You can even find a few of the papers online. You may still have to pay for the other textbooks that contain this material, but it should cost less overall than buying this particular book.

History of Early Film

History textbooks do tend to be expensive, but a history of film for $740? It seems so. It's out of print now, which makes finding a cheap copy even more difficult. While the book contains some commentary you'll have to get from looking at a classmate's copy, you can get much of the content elsewhere. You'll have to do a bit of digging through reference books and online, but many of the reports, reviews and papers from the early days of film can be found in other material. If you truly need the book, you can find it used for around $500 on sites like Amazon. You might also try convincing your professor to switch to a less expensive text. Many books on this subject have been written before and cost a lot less for the students.

Biostatistical Genetics and Genetic Epidemiology

This book is so particular in its focus that it's difficult to get out of buying. Even at $665, less than half the price of the first book mentioned, it's still quite pricy. Maybe you can't skip buying this one entirely, but Amazon is letting used copies of the books go for about $250, which hurts your wallet much less. In this case, sometimes new copies are actually less expensive, so check the site for cost comparisons. If you're absolutely set on not getting the book, you can check with a professor to see which articles you're reading that week and try to find them online or photocopy them from a friend's book.

Got the book, but unsure how to use it? Try these great tips on college note taking!

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