Today I did some basic math. I’ve been at U of T for eight terms (including summer courses), taking an average of four courses per term, and buying an average of four books per class. Although the price of books varies widely, I estimated that the average cost of each book is about $40, evening out the price of those colossal $120 texts with the much more agreeable $20 ones. Thanks to my history skills, I can assess that the total amount of money I’ve spent on books during my university career is around $1300. If I extrapolate these costs until my graduation date, the price will be closer to $1500. And while $1500 isn’t the kind of cost that, spread out over four years, is necessarily going to do me in, it does still represent a healthy investment. The same amount could pay for a few months’ rent, a new winter coat every couple of winters, or eight trips to the dentist.
All this math to tell you that there is a way to avoid spending vast amounts on books: a service called the Toronto University Students’ Book Exchange. TUSBE is a student-run service where you can bring your old textbooks and sell them back (at a discounted price) to students who need them, making back some of the money initially spent on them. At TUSBE you can also find used texts required for your classes and pick them up for a reduced price.
To sell books, the TUSBE website allows you to post old textbooks and put them up for sale, and to search for books that you need. All you need to sign up is an email address, which assists you in either being contacted or contacting other people when you find a book in TUSBE’s giant book catalogue. You search online by title, author, course, or even by campus. A considerable list of books then materializes, individual posts describing the book’s condition, its price, and the courses it’s required for. On top of this, there is also frequently extra material included with the book, including old tests, exams, and notes you can use to help you study. After browsing through a myriad of titles, and selecting those of interest (or those required) you then simply contact the vendor through the TUSBE system, via email; and arrange to pick up your book.
Established in 1998, the service is now the largest book exchange in Toronto, with over 75,000 books for sale. Participating institutions include the three U of T campuses, Ryerson University, and York University. The organization’s mandate is based, at least in part, on trying to save students money. As I’ve calculated it, the accumulated savings you’d make over the span of a university career definitely makes TUSBE worth looking into, particularly when January rolls around again and a host of new profs cheerfully hand out another set of extensive reading lists; and all the while you are sure you can hear your wallet groaning in your pocket.