Is It Worth It To Buy The Recommended Undergraduate Textbooks?

During the first week of term, module leads introduce the topics you will discuss in their modules and they will recommend resources to help you study. The most highlighted sources are textbooks. However, with 8 modules per academic year, the list of books you might use is long and the price to get them all high. In this article, I will analyse whether or not it is worth it to buy the recommended textbooks and some strategies to save money when purchasing them.


With you at all times

Throughout the years, I always bought the recommended textbooks. In Italy it is impossible to get through the 13 years of elementary, middle and high school without them, so I was already used to having them all. I carried this mindset to university, so it is no surprise I bought the books lecturers were highlighting for each module.

Buying your own textbooks allows you to always have them available and use them at your own need. This last statement connects nicely to the next point.

Avoid the hustle of borrowing them

Those of you who often borrow books from the library know how difficult it is to get them. Especially During the exam period, people are rushing to revise the topics they are not confident on, so the first source of information is textbooks. This means you might not access the resource you need before your deadlines.

If you own the recommended textbooks, you avoid the risk of not being able to access them when you most need to revise.

Write notes and underline key points

Teachers in school taught me to write on my textbooks and underline the key points of each chapter. Now that I’m at university, I am used to this method of learning, and I integrate my written notes with those I make on books. I answer the questions scattered throughout the pages, so I am ready if they pop up in the exam.

Those who benefit from the same method may want to own the textbooks, so they can enhance their learning, while avoiding writing on the library’s books.


Difficult to carry

The textbooks recommended for each module expand your knowledge of each subject. For this reason, they are lengthy and heavy. When I bought the first-year books, I realised they would be difficult to carry around. This became even more problematic when I moved back to Italy in March, when luggage weight was an issue.

Students who travel back and forth between their home and the student accommodation might be weighed down by the textbooks. For this reason, owing the physical copy of each recommended textbook is tricky.


Textbooks are expensive. If you buy every single recommended book, you can expect to spend hundreds of pounds. This might be an issue for students from lower income households or those who are working to pay for their studies. As a result, some students might not access all the resources lecturers are recommending, if not for the library books. The library is always busy and books are not always available, so students must find another solution.

Often useful for only module

When I started my undergraduate course, I noticed most of the modules were recommending a list of books. As I discussed in a previous point, I bought them all. However, once I had a look at them, I realised most of them were only useful for one module. Moreover, the books recommended for one module have repeated contents, so one of them is enough to have all the information you need.

Top Tips To Save Money On Books

Buy older editions

Most books have older editions available online or in shops. Older editions are cheaper than newer ones, so if you want to save money, older editions are the way to go. The only con to older editions is that lecturers might refer you to chapters and pages in new editions. Be mindful of this aspect and you will access the same contents as students with newer editions.

Buy e-books

Although I prefer textbooks, one cheap alternative is purchasing e-books. They have multiple positives to them. First, you can carry them wherever you want, as they are not as heavy as physical books-be aware of your storage space on your preferred device. Second, you avoid wasting paper and cutting trees. Third, you can have them on multiple devices, accessing them no matter where you are.

Share them with your friends

My friends and I bought 3 books to help us with some of the toughest second-year modules. To save the biggest amount of money, each of us purchased one book and shared it with the others. In this way, each of us has 3 books for the price of 1. Although they are e-textbooks, the same can be done with paperbacks.

If you made friends on your course, sharing the textbooks can be a great way to save on the budget for school supplies.

Look for second-hand books

Similar to my advice for older book editions, buying second hand is cheaper than getting new books. An additional perk of buying second-hand textbooks is you can get the newest edition at a lower price compared to retailers.

The only downfall is the quality of the books you get. Depending on who used them first, you can get them in poor conditions, written on and even missing pages. Make sure you check the conditions before buying them, even when doing this on-line. My experience with second-hand books has been positive, so I would recommend trying it out, especially if the newest edition is too expensive.

The best option for me, depending also on my method to study, is to buy the books that are recommended by multiple module leads and then check each book description. This allows me to see which of the list I am given best suits my method and reading preference, so I don’t spend money on books I won’t use or don’t like.

Whenever I write an article such as this one, I give you the advice I needed when I started two years ago. I hope this is useful and clarifies things for you. My preference goes to buying my own books, but the reason I didn’t give you a yes/no answer is I believe it depends on each person.

Let me know if you need any more advice on this or any other topic about starting university in September!

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