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Textbooks are fucking expensive, and if your professor doesn’t require a physical copy (most don’t - they just want you to have the book at hand. Or maybe even not. Some professors literally give no fucks about whether you have the book or not) and you don’t mind having your copy as an electronic copy - this is the post for you!
Most textbook companies put out new editions every year or so even though there isn’t really that much new information. Sometimes they’ll eliminate questions if it’s something like a math or chemistry book or they’ll add in a few sentences about updated legislation (the professor I work for teaches human sexuality, and the newest edition of the book she uses included the 2009 decision to allow same-sex couples have hospital visitation rights). These new editions are pointless and only created to make the textbook company money and to cut down on students selling to each other. You’re going to ignore that. We love older editions. Make sure when you’re searching on the following sites that you don’t include the edition number to give you more search results. If one with your edition comes up - great! If not, you can usually stick to something one to three editions behind without any major changes.
I should also mention that checking your school’s library for a book you can check out to either keep for the semester or scan the pages you need is also a great option. I saved $90 the semester after I wrote this by borrowing a chemistry lab manual from the library and just scanning the labs I needed instead of buying one for myself that I couldn’t even sell later on.
Sites you should be searching:
FilesTube - FilesTube searches THE ENTIRE INTERNET for files uploaded to file-sharing websites such as MegaUpload, Mediafire, or WuUpload. Sometimes people will upload pdf files of your textbook. This is always an important first search.
Google Books - You usually won’t find your textbook on Google Books, but it’s always worth a look. Sometimes pages are missing because it’s only a preview of the book, but again - always worth a look.
Scribd - People upload documents to Scribd and by becoming a member (free!) or connecting through Facebook (if you’re lazy!), you can download whatever files you may find. This sometimes includes textbooks.
BookBoon - website specifically for finding pdf versions of textbooks
TorrentScan - textbooks are also uploaded to torrent sites in some cases - you may as well check.
If push comes to shove, you can try variations of googling “textbook name torrent” or “textbook name download” or “textbook name download free.” Sometimes things pop up and I never would have known about them.
LibraryPirate is a torrent search site specifically for textbooks. (Added 10 October 2011)
JenkThat - I haven’t tried this out yet, but I’ve heard good things from others. It’s also a good place to find other ebooks that aren’t textbooks. (Added 29 December 2011)
Bookfi - I just briefly looked at this site and searched for a few common terms and it looks great! Download links are provided straight from the search results. Definitely useful! (Added 1 August 2012)
I’ve found all 8 of my textbooks for this term (19 credit hours, six classes) through one of the methods above. I’m not even going to look at retail prices, but checking BigWords.com (which, if you want to buy your books/can’t find them anywhere with one of the previous methods, will give you the cheapest price on the internet), I saved $497.87 by doing this. It takes time, but it’s definitely worth almost $500 worth of time. If you know of more ways to find free textbooks - please let me know!
Hopefully my textbooks will be available online. My tablet would be so useful ;D
This is a summary of college only using two pictures; expensive as hell.
That’s my Sociology “book”. In fact what it is is a piece of paper with codes written on it to allow me to access an electronic version of a book. I was told by my professor that I could not buy any other paperback version, or use another code, so I was left with no option other than buying a piece of paper for over $200. Best part about all this is my professor wrote the books; there’s something hilariously sadistic about that. So I pretty much doled out $200 for a current edition of an online textbook that is no different than an older, paperback edition of the same book for $5; yeah, I checked. My mistake for listening to my professor.