The Smart Way to Get Books For Your Course

Buying books better!

Reading books is an essential part of University which all students need to do in order to successfully complete their degree. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to get a hold of these books eventually.

Whilst a lot of students buy all of their books new from a bookshop as soon as they can, this can be expensive though and ultimately wasteful if you don’t need them.

So, here’s a few tips for buying books better!

Don’t buy anything until you are told to!

Lecturers often change and adapt reading lists over time so don’t buy your complete reading list before you have your first lectures and your told specifically what to read and buy. You don’t want to waste your money on books you’re never going to need. Lecturers do sometimes on occasion send out an email with a reading list in advance of a module starting in which case you can get started on reading. But generally if you’re not sure, just contact your lecturer or wait until your course starts.

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You might be eligible for FREE books

If you’re a first year student then you may be eligible to receive the majority of your reading list for free as part of the 50th Anniversary scholarship.

There is a difference between primary and secondary reading lists!

A primary reading list is full of books which you need to read in order to gain a general understanding for your course.

Whereas a secondary reading list features books which are really useful for research and reference which you should read if you need a bit more depth on a subject. The books on this list are normally way more expensive and you will often only use them when writing essays. Therefore to begin with just get your primary reading lists and then you can see if you need to get any books from your secondary lists.

Think: Do you really need to buy it?

So now you have your reading lists the first thought you have is that you want to just get it all out of the way out and buy every single book on the lists you’ve been given. Whilst most of your books will be essential to get, there will be a few books that will be useful for a bit of research once where borrowing may be more suitable. This nicely leads up to the next tip!

Use the Library

The library usually stock several copies of popular books that students need so it’s a good place to start if you need to borrow a book for a few days to make notes before returning it. Now the extension to the library is finished, there’s now over 1 million books in there so the chances are, the books that you need are probably in there!

Online the library also provides loads of e-books and online resources which can be pretty useful. Although if you need to use a book in a seminar or a class then an e-book might not be suitable as it’s really hard to quickly find the page you’re looking for amongst everyone else using a physical book.


Always try to buy second hand!

New books are often really expensive so once you’ve decided which books you need to buy it’s often good to start looking for books second hand to see if you can get a better deal. Most of the time, second hand books are in next to new condition for a fraction of the price as other students have used them a few times and want to sell them quickly and cheap to help them buy new books fast.

Where to buy second hand books from?

  • Buying books off of students in the years above you is a great place to start. They often have the majority of the reading list that you need and will give you a deal for buying them all in one go.
  • The student’s union also run a book selling marketplace called which allows students at the University to buy and sell books without any fees or charges.

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  • eBay often has the best range of second hand books. There are a wide range of sellers on the website which cover pretty much everything. A good seller I use a lot of the time is
  • If you have a bit of time to get them then is a good option. The books on this website are really cheap but often take a long time to arrive.
  • Charity shops are the best in terms of price but it often takes a long time to discover the books you are looking for.

Oxfam Book Shop

There are still options if you need to buy last minute

If you suddenly realise you need to buy a book urgently for the next day or later in the week, then it’s still possible to get hold of them!

  • Waterstones on campus stocks all every reading list for every course at the University so if you need it, it should be there.
  • Amazon Prime offers next day delivery on a range of products which is perfect for last minute essentials including books. The service is free for the first 6 months for students and then after that it’s £35 a year which also includes Amazon Prime video. Ideal to watch after you’ve finished reading your books!

Getting books which are hard to find

Some books which you have to get can sometimes seem hard to find. Especially if the book has gone out of print or is not widely available. Although your lecturers won’t expect you to travel the world to look for one book, they will expect you to use your common sense. Speak to your friends, department and lecturers and ask if you can borrow a copy for a few nights.

Your department may also be able to provide you with photocopies of sections you need for a small charge.

So whilst books are essential for successfully completing your degree, make sure that you…

  • Definitely need them!
  • Shop around for a good deal!
  • Ask around if you need any help!


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