July 2013
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Your guide to buying novels for your lit class

Though McDaniel is a liberal arts college, most students aren’t required to take a literature class during their time on the Hill (though there is a component of the McDaniel Plan called “textual analysis,” which can be fulfilled by taking a course in literature, philosophy, foreign language, history, or a bunch of other things). However, in my humble English major opinion, a literature class is a great thing to take while you’re at McDaniel regardless of your major! You’ll get to read some cool and thought-provoking books (or short stories or poems), you’ll learn how to analyze and think critically about writing, and you’ll be able to impress others in intellectual social settings with your knowledge of literature.

Now that I’ve told you some of the benefits of taking a lit class, let me tell you how to make taking such a class as affordable as possible by making sure you pay as little as possible for all the novels you’ll need to buy!

Shop around in your own home.

Depending on what literature class you take, you might already own some of the books. Most professors don’t care about what editions of the book you have, so if you already own the book, there’s no sense in buying another copy, unless you really really like being able to have the same page numbers as most of your classmates. Check your own bookshelves, and ask your parents, friends, and relatives if they’d like to lend or give you the book you need. (But be sure to tell them upfront if you plan on writing in the book. Some people just don’t want that.)

Try your e-reader.

If you’re taking a lit class that focuses on novels that are at least 75-100 years old, many of the texts you need to get for class are in the public domain, meaning that in a digital format, you can get them for free. You need not have an e-reader to get access to them either; if they’re free, you can probably find PDFs of them online or on Google Books. A word of advice though: if you like to heavily annotate your books, going digital might not be for you.

Compare prices on McDaniel’s bookstore website and other sites.

McDaniel’s bookstore is affiliated with Barnes and Noble. Like other colleges that partner up with B&N, there’s a BN College website specifically for McDaniel where McDaniel students can buy and rent their books and pick them up directly in the campus bookstore. Usually when I give people advice on buying books, I tell them to use the site as a book list and buy their books elsewhere using, a search engine that allows users to plug in ISBN numbers to find the best prices on books. However, buying novels is a little different. Because individual novels are so inexpensive when bought used, once you factor in the shipping costs from sites such as Amazon, Half, and Abe Books, the price of that book might actually be more than the cost of it on campus. Therefore, when you’re buying inexpensive books, you absolutely have to compare prices at the bookstore and on used book websites to make sure you’re paying as little as possible.

Buying books and textbooks can add up, but if you take the time to shop around, the savings can add up too. Still looking for even more savings? Check out my textbook buying guide here.

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