Posted by: idm04 | 2010/08/15

Buying Textbooks

Textbook titles for courses will start to be released on approximately August 15th.

Generally, you will need one textbook for each course.  Sometimes you won’t need one at all (e.g. Math 102/103) and sometimes you’ll need more than one.  Some courses will also require you to buy a custom course package which is a bunch of articles or something from multiple sources packaged into one booklet.  This custom course package is essentially an anthology.  All of the required materials can be found at the UBC Bookstore on campus, and sometimes, they can be found elsewhere (for cheaper).  Sometimes they do run out of stock but it is usually replenished quickly.

Online Textbook Ordering from UBC Bookstore

UBC Bookstore offers you the option of ordering your textbooks online.  You can then choose to have them ship the textbooks to you, or you can choose to pick up the textbooks on campus, either at a UBC residence, or the Bookstore itself.  If you pick up the textbooks in person, the shipping fee should be waived.

I’ve found that a lot of the time, at least for first year, readings aren’t really assigned in the first week.  When I was trying to find used books, I remember only wanting to get books before the first day of school so I wouldn’t be behind in readings but I was being way too paranoid.  You might also find out in one of the first few classes of the term that the textbook that is listed on the booklist is actually only optional; or that an earlier edition is definitely acceptable; or that you have access to it online (e.g. MasteringPhysics); or maybe you don’t even want to take the course anymore.

I usually recommend waiting until the first day of class before deciding which textbooks to buy.

Alternatively, what I did in first year was order all my textbooks online and have them shipped to me, and then find used textbooks (see below) in the meantime. When I was able to obtain a used textbook, I would then return the new textbook to the Bookstore. See the bookstore’s website for their refund policy.

UBC Bookstore:

Used Books

I got most of my books used from either Craigslist, or the UBC Textbooks-related Facebook Group.  

There are a variety of places to get used books.  If you know someone older at UBC or even at another university, they might have some old books lying around that they wouldn’t mind getting rid of, and they could be books that you need.  For first year, I got all of my used books through Craigslist (met with the people in person).

When buying books used, it is important to check the edition of the textbook, and also obviously the name/author to make sure that it is indeed the correct book.  As for the edition, you want to check the edition because your first choice would be the edition that the booklist says.  Furthermore, older editions generally sell for a lot less.  There really should be essentially no difference between the latest edition of a book and the second latest edition – maybe some of the formatting/general lay-out/page numbers and the appearance, but the content should ultimately be the same.  However, note that if you plan to sell the textbook later, it may be more difficult to sell a older edition textbook. Also, some instructors will tell you not to get a different edition than what is required.

As with any other website to get used books, it is possible to haggle and be able to get a lower price than the one listed.  Offering a lower price allows you to save a bit more money, and giving incentives such as meeting at their location will increase your chance of getting a cheaper book.  Use common sense to avoid being scammed or worse.

Since you’re buying from students who’ve presumably taken the course, you can also ask if they have lecture notes or past exams to give you.


Websites that people might use to find used textbooks include:

Facebook groups – UBC textbook 4 sale, UBC Textbook Exchange

Discount Bookstore

There is also the Discount Bookstore in the UBC Village (near the McDonald’s) which is a good place to check out if you can’t find a used textbook or need to buy a new one.

Other options

Some people choose to find their textbooks online (PDFs) either through Google search, torrents, or It may also be possible to look up the textbook publisher and purchase an e-book version if available.

The UBC Library has many course textbooks on reserve, meaning that students are able to go into the library and read them for some period of time. Some textbooks can also be borrowed and taken out from the library. Textbooks on reserve cannot leave the library.

The UBC Bookstore rents some textbooks to students for a term, which they say saves students money.

With textbook rental services or purchasing access to an e-book to a certain amount of time, keep in mind that you are buying a service rather than an ‘item’, meaning that you will not be able to resell it like you can with a physical textbook. It is theoretically possible to buy a used textbook from someone, use it for a course, and then, assuming the same edition is used next term/year, resell it for the same or close to the same price that you bought it.

How do I know which books to buy?

You can find out which textbooks are required or optional for your course through the UBC Bookstore website.  This booklist is posted on Aug. 15th for Term 1 textbooks and their booklist is updated on a regular basis.  Often, there will be already books in the bookstore before the booklist comes out.

Again, I usually recommend waiting until the first day of classes before you purchase textbooks, unless you know for certain a book will be required (e.g. novels for literature classes, or based off information from someone who has previously taken the course). It is not uncommon for instructors to say in class that a textbook listed as required on the bookstore website is actually optional, or that a different/older edition may be used.

What to do with old textbooks?

First, check the Bookstore to see if any courses you’re taking next term/year use a textbook you already have (unlikely). If you no longer need a textbook, you can obviously sell it on one of the sites listed above. The Bookstore may also buy back used textbooks, but usually for a price that is lower than what you can get from selling directly to a student.

Textbooks tend to fetch a higher price in the Winter Session than in the Summer Session because there is lower demand in the summer. However, selling a textbook sooner has the benefit of avoiding owning a textbook that you cannot sell because the relevant course changed editions or textbooks altogether.






  1. Thank you very much for all the information. It was extremely helpful. Thank you once again!

  2. An alternative to the pages you named here is you can find a lot of used textbooks for UBC and other universities in BC. The best thing for me is that you don’t have to pay shipping fees, because you can buy the used university textbooks directly from other students! Check it out!

  3. This was awesome.

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