McGill University Bookstore
(Hayley Mortin / McGill Tribune)

McGill 101: A guide to buying and selling textbooks

a/Student Living by

Amid all of the excitement that accompanies thousands of students flooding the streets of Montreal, buying textbooks might be overlooked at the start of the semester. Textbooks can be hard to find, and even harder to afford. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways for students to acquire textbooks that won’t break the bank.


The McGill Bookstore, located at 3420 McTavish Street, is a place of convenience and certainty. Books purchased here are on the pricier side, but it comes with a guarantee that you are getting the right ones as professors directly alert the bookstore of the books and the editions that their classes require. Some professors require students to purchase a course pack as the course’s main textbook, or in addition to other books and textbooks. These coursepacks are also available at the bookstore. There are also many ways to save money when buying from the McGill Bookstore. Firstly, if reading from a screen does not bother you, the McGill Bookstore offers 'digital coursepacks' at 40-50 per cent off the price of the print edition. Secondly, for those who don’t mind highlighting or wear-and-tear, the bookstore sells certain textbooks in used condition at reduced prices. For students with old textbooks sitting at home, the bookstore will buy back certain books. They have an online database which allows users to search which books can be bought back and for what prices. Finally, the bookstore also offers the option to rent certain textbooks which can knock off up to 40 per cent off the original price.

If you prefer smaller bookstore The Word Bookstore, a quaint little hole-in-the-wall, is located at 469 Milton Street just steps away from the Milton Gates. This bookstore sells used books and may be tiny, but it is jam-packed with McGill students and the many textbooks they require. They often post the selection of textbooks that they have in stock on their Facebook page, which may save students a trip or two.

Another bookstore close to campus is Paragraphe at 2220 McGill College Avenue. This store carries new books which are almost as pricey as the McGill bookstore; however, some professors choose to send their textbook requests here, so you should become familiar with this location.

Finding books online

There are a variety of ways to acquire textbooks through online platforms. It is worthwhile to check if books may be found on Amazon, where they are often available in new and used condition, and may be delivered in as quickly as two days. McGill also has its own online classifieds platform to facilitate selling all sorts of items; it's a great way to buy used textbooks and books off fellow classmates at affordable prices. In addition to the classifieds, a few Facebook pages exist that can help locate good deals. McGill Textbook Exchange and the more general McGill Free and For Sale groups on Facebook are great resources that are offer similar platforms to buy and sell textbooks. The McGill Bookstore also has an option to purchase textbooks online and then pick them up in the store.

Other tips for buying textbooks

Before you embark on your textbook buying adventure, make sure you double check the title and edition of the textbook required for your course. Sometimes professors will allow you to use an older edition of a textbook which may mean the books are less expensive. Even if you can’t save money through buying an older edition, you may be able to share a hard-copy with friends or find an e-book online.

As for coursepacks, it is possible to find the included articles online. McGill has an extensive online database system called WorldCat that will grant McGill students access to an abundance of publications. Google Books and Google Scholar are other third-party platforms which may also have the required articles or chapters at no cost.

Finally, for textbooks only needed for a short time, professors often put textbooks on reserve at one of McGill’s 13 libraries. Although this is a great alternative to spending money on your own book, it is important to note that there are limited copies available, each with a three hour rental limit. Be careful during midterms and finals as many of your classmates may be searching for the same title.

This article is a part of our McGill 101 issue, which aims to ease your transition and answer questions you have about McGill and Montreal.