Stocking your bookshelf, saving your money

a/Student Living by

There are few things in the world that I find rant-worthy, and even fewer that actually elicit a strong emotional reaction once I begin to complain. By definition, a ‘rant’ is supposed to help you vent, and allow your frustration to diminish. There is one topic, however, that works me up the further I dwell on it: textbooks—or rather—textbook manufacturing companies.

There is absolutely no reason that I should ever have to pay $150 for a single book, no matter what knowledge that book contains—Unless it’s the meaning of life or something. Not being a philosophy student, I wouldn’t know; but I doubt textbooks have come that far. And, quite frankly, I don’t see the need for a new edition every single year. Suffice it to say, I’m sick and tired of seeing my budget take a substantial hit every Add/Drop period since my first year.

So, I encourage those who have not already done so—add/drop does end today—to explore some alternatives. Full price is never the only option—and as far as I’m concerned, it is simply no longer an option.

Many McGill students have been introduced to the magical world of the McGill Classifieds, a free service run by the Media Relations Office (MRO). The site can be viewed by anyone, but to post an ad, you must log in using your McGill ID. The McGill Classifieds displays ads for everything from apartments to tutors; but many students frequent its pages for used textbooks. At the beginning of each semester, countless ads pop up, promising minimal highlighting, or in some cases “never been opened” books and study guides. Be wary of these, and make sure to check the textbook before purchasing it. Students usually provide emails or phone numbers, and arrange to meet on campus to complete the transaction for the agreed upon price (which is almost always lower than that offered by the campus bookstore). If you choose to post an ad, get ready for a flood of anonymous texts; if you choose to answer an ad, get ready to hear a lot of “Sorry, already sold” before you find the book you need. One last tip: when meeting on campus, try to pick somewhere besides the Milton Gates. It’s unoriginal and you will have to describe your outfit better than the editors at J. Peterman in order to find who you’re looking for.

The Word on Milton is another mecca of used textbooks for McGillians. Each semester, they publish a list of textbooks they are willing to buy back (always for less than you paid to buy it, but those are the breaks), allowing you to easily sell back your old books, should you want to avoid the hassle of the McGill Classifieds. It is worth mentioning that both the Classifieds and The Word require you to pay in cash. Most profs will tell you if your required course text is available at The Word, but it’s always worth a look once you have your entire textbook shopping list, just in case. Try to avoid going at peak hours, because the store is pretty tiny. The mid-day crowd makes you more likely to knock into a stack of books, which, short of quoting Twilight, feels like the worst thing you could do.

Another option open to university students is Serving students all across Canada, BookMob boasts an extensive catalogue of brand new and gently used textbooks. There is no membership fee, and students can choose to buy or rent. Return shipping is free when you rent, and students have multiple payment options, including PayPal, BookMob credit, and cheque (although paying by cheque can lengthen wait time for receiving your books). Also, if students elect to buy their textbooks, they always have the option of selling them back to BookMob in the future. The only potential drawback of BookMob is the wait-time for your order. Going to an actual store would allow you to leave with your textbooks in hand that day.

You can also go the Facebook route and check out the Free & For Sale McGill group. With all these extra options, not to mention other websites like,, and other bookstores around town like Paragraphe, students should never have to feel bound to the McGill Bookstore. Granted, although professors can—and should—make readings available on MyCourses, the Bookstore is pretty much your only option for course packs. By and large, you can save unlimited amounts by getting a little creative, exploring your options, and haggling just a little bit on McGill Classifieds.