Don’t let textbooks make you lose a bucket of money. Photo courtesy of pmccormi. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.Welcome to College 101, a weekly series HackCollege will be providing with how-to’s and what-not-to-do’s for incoming college freshmen, and those who think they need a refresher course. This week – the most corrupt industry in higher education and also the reason this column was delayed a day – textbooks.

Need a laptop? Our Back to School series is brought to you this year by Intel. We’ve teamed up to bring you the HackCollege Laptop Chooser. If you share the Laptop Chooser, you’ll be entered to win a Samsung Series 9 Notebook!

There are some universal truths in this life – death, taxes, and if you’re in college, textbooks. Few classes can survive without offering them, and they make an expensive higher education THAT much more expensive. Only in the textbook industry can online access codes sell for nearly $100 while bundles of books and codes sell for near $60. I wonder how much it cost to generate a series of random numbers.

Textbooks are getting more user-friendly with the rise of e-readers like the Nook and the Kindle, but the industry is quick to adapt. Thankfully for us, the everyday college students, the market is just as quick to adapt. Enter Amazon and Chegg into the textbook market and the university bookstore’s reign on textbook purchasing begins to slip.

Read on below the jump for more tips on how to not fall into the textbook swindle.

Avoid the university bookstore at all costs. Do as I say, not as I do. I’ve actually been lucky to find some very good deals at my university bookstore, but these experiences have never been pleasant. A lot of paperwork, a lot of crowds, and a lot of overworked students who just want add/drop week to be over and their paycheck to come.

Rent. If money isn’t an object, I love to buy books, movies, music, or anything. But textbook shopping is not the time to create your personal library. If you love Plato’s Republic, buy a cheap copy after your class is over, but wait and rent it now. Just set a reminder for when your due date is coming up so you don’t pay out the ass in late fees.

Buy used. Look at the condition of the book if possible, but usually any “use” that a previously used book has gone through is beneficial to the student – highlights, underlining, and sometimes a spare Sticky note or two. Not to mention they are usually much cheaper.

Think about digital’s limitations. I have used a few digital books both now and in the earlier parts of my academic career, and as convenient as they were (Facebook at the same time? YES!), they also proved to be much less portable and it made me require a power source to study usually. Not the best for those extra spare hours in the student union.

Don’t buy until add/drop is over. A hard rule to follow, especially with teachers who decide to assign work in the first week of classes, but it’s not impossible. I held out until the last day of add/drop this year to get all my books and one class has already had two quizzes, but the book was needed for none of them. Teachers are usually understanding due to the textbook’s high costs and low availability, and this saves you if you decide to switch times, sections, or courses in general.