Since Slugbooks, our local student-run textbook co-op, went out of business in late 2006, students have been left to their own devices when it comes to saving money on exorbitantly priced textbooks. Hence, here is a compilation of tips that may help you save some dough this quarter, whether you are attending one of the county's fine educational institutions or just want to catch up on your reading.

UPDATE - SlugBooks is back in a different form as a comparison textbook search specific to UCSC courses.

Cheapest Options: Not Buying Books ($0)

Naturally, the first step is to assess whether you actually need to buy books for your courses at all. Attend the first few class meetings and get a sense of how important it is for you to own the books. Sometimes the books you buy may not end up being used in the course at all, as the instructor may decide not to use the texts previously assigned.

  • Spend your time studying at the library and check out your coursebooks on reserve (if your instructor has placed the books on reserve)
  • Check you school's online library catalog to see if the books your need are available for checkout. Also, check the Santa Cruz Public Library for the more popular titles. Especially, see if the books you need are available in electronic form or available for download from e-libraries.
  • If you can't find the books you need at your school library or the public library, consider getting an Inter Library Loan (ILL). For UC Santa Cruz, check the Melvyl University of California database of the entire UC collection. Many times a course book you need will just be sitting around gathering dust in the basement of a different UC library. Interlibrary transfers are free for students, and sometimes you can keep a book for up to a year before you have to return or renew it. Other libraries often have the same features and are connected with other public/regional libraries, but sometimes you might have to pay a dollar or two for the book transfer. It's worth checking out, though.
  • Many classes use texts that are quite old and thus have become part of the public domain. Generally, if a text is printed before 1925 it is in the public domain. Anyone may reproduce and distribute the work, whether for profit or not. In a few cases the copyrights have been maintained. Therefor, many of these older texts are available free on the internet (this is especially relevant for courses like the Stevenson Core Course, which uses several old religious and philosophical texts). Just Google the book title and see what pops up, you might find just what you're looking for.
  • Make friends with some other student in the class who has already bought the books. You now owe them for life.

Textbook Rental

For high-priced, high-demand textbooks and new editions, rental may also be an option. Before new editions are available to the used market (Amazon, eBay and, textbook rental companies will offer rentals at significantly below retail price.

Next Best Options: Photocopying and Co-oping


Frequently a teacher will not assign an entire book for students to read- only selected portions. In many cases it is cost effective to simply photocopy the pages you need. At the UCSC library, photocopying costs 8 cents per sheet. Typically you can copy two book pages onto one side of an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper. With a little math, you can figure out if it's cost effective to do this.

For example, say that you need to read 100 pages from a book that costs $20. In this case, let's say that you can fit two book pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. So essentially, you'll need to make 50 copies, give or take a few misprints.

Here comes the math part. Multiply the number of pages you need by the cost per page. Assuming each copy costs 8 cents, we end up with the following equation:

50 copies x $.08 per page= $4.00

Thus, photocopying the pages would save you $16, minus the money you may or may not get if you resell the book after your course ends.

Clearly this is a good savings, but savings varies depending on how many copies you need and how expensive the book is. Also, you might feel that your time is worth more to you than the $16 savings (it takes less than half an hour to photocopy 50 pages, approximately). Sometimes (especially with hefty $150 textbooks), you can save substantial amounts by photocopying the entire book.

Some people might argue that such is illegal, but in fact, it is not, unless you sell your photocopies to someone else or distribute the pages. Above the copy machines in McHenry Library you can read about the laws concerning copyright law. And really, you've probably downloaded hundreds of songs illegally off the internet, which is more illegal than photocopying stuff.


This is almost the same principle as the "make friends with someone who already bought the books", except in this case you bear part of the burden by checking out/photocopying/buying some of the books you both need. It works best when you live with the other person/people you are co-oping with. Also, be aware of the potential pitfalls of doing this, especially if a bunch of you all have a paper due the next day and you all want to use the same book at the same time.

Book Buying for Less

Here are some resources for where to find books for less money than the MSRP.

  • - helps UCSC students find the textbooks they need at the cheapest prices online by comparing textbook prices online.
  • Used bookstores. These can be hit-and-miss (unless the book you need is very popular) and can take a long time to track down the books you need at the best price. It might be worth it to call ahead and see if the stores have the books you want.
  • - Website that allows students to search for books by the course and see a breakdown of real time online prices to the prices that the UCSC bookstore uses. Also allows students to list their books, which might be a cheap option as well.
  • The internet. This can have drawbacks, especially when your coursebooks don't arrive until the course is already half over. However, you can find good prices on books, and the savings can be worth the wait.
    • A good site is , which compares prices of several popular booksellers, such as Amazon,, Abe's books, etc., and can be time-saving. The initial page doesn't always have the correct book prices for each of the sites, but it prevents you from having to perform the same search over and over again at 10 different sites.
  • Craigslist
  • Slug Books' Savings Tips for Maximum Textbook Savings

Related Links


2010-03-16 17:49:15   I suggest using Chegg to rent textbooks and save a lot of money. I wanted to share a code that your readers can use to get a discount on their text order. Put in the code when ordering and hit the "apply" button. The code also gives you back an additional $5 when selling Chegg your used texts.

The code does not have an expiration date so it can be used with every order. Here it is:


Feel free to pass this code to friends. —