Bust the Myth: Saving Big Money on Textbooks Can Be a Reality

It seems like finding the best deals on textbooks is like chasing a unicorn. You’ve heard there are good deals in some bedtime story your grandparents told you long ago, yet every back-to-school season, you’re left with the real story: a busted budget. We know that textbook shopping can be stressful and expensive. A study from the National Association of College Stores reports that students spent an average of $579 on required course materials during the 2016-2017 academic year. Fairy tale?! More like SCARY TALE, am I right?

We’re here to tell a different story, one with a little more happily-ever-after and a lot less I-can’t-even-afford-ramen!

Here are HPB.com‘s top tips to make any student’s book buying experience a better one this semester:

Shop early or beware. Procrastinate and you’ll just get eaten by the troll under the bridge, so they say. Demand is higher right before the semester starts and everyone is looking for the same book, which makes prices higher. Nab yours early to take advantage of some of the lowest prices — and beat that troll to the punch!

Buy used if it’s within your power. Sometimes you can’t avoid it if your potions professor picked a brand new textbook or newer edition, but a used book will always be cheaper and sometimes filled with some other studious wizard’s helpful notes!

Look for older editions. Rip Van Winkle was purported to say, “Old is the new-new!” He was probably talking about your textbooks. If the updates to newer editions are minimal from year-to-year, an older edition will likely save you some cash.
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40 Years of Buying Everything Ever Printed or Recorded

When you buy everything printed and recorded all day, every day, for 40 years, at an ever-growing number of locations, you see a lotta weird and wonderful stuff!  Here’s a first installment of 40 memorable buys we’ve made over the years.

1. Now you see it. Now you don’t.

A few years ago, our Plano store was fortunate enough to purchase several books that were fore-edge painted.  What, you may ask, does that mean?

Fore-edge painting is an almost-lost art.  An artist paints a scene of some sort on the fore-edges of the pages of a book—the edges opposite the book’s spine—while those pages are fanned.  When the book is closed and lying flat, the painting is not visible. When you fan the pages: Voila! The hidden scene appears! Often, the bookbinder would add gilt or marbling to the page edges in order to further conceal the secret scene.  Our buyers wouldn’t have even known that the books they were buying were fore-edge-painted if the seller hadn’t made a note of it.

Here’s one of the books Plano bought, Poetical Works of Robert Bridges, from 1913, unfanned (on the left). Note that the book itself is not especially interesting or desirable to a collector; that is, without its little secret. Here’s a photo revealing the scene, an “Eton School Room” (on the right).

Fore-edge painting is very uncommon, so I wouldn’t suggest rushing to your shelves and fanning all your old leather-bound treasures.  But fore-edge-painted books could make an interesting collection (which you’d have to be prepared to show-and-tell). 

2. Family Heirloom

Way back in 1990, longtime employee Chuck Pierce was assigned to work the Religion section at one of our Houston stores.  One day, he spotted an old worn Bible that was in pretty bad condition. Just before he set it aside to be recycled, he opened it and, to his surprise, saw his father’s name along with the names of his siblings. Turns out that Chuck had serendipitously come across the Bible of his aunt who had passed away twenty-six years before. Chuck believes that he was meant to have that Bible and keeps it close-by to this day.

3. “We proudly accept this buy…”

Wisconsin District Manager Joe Desch and District trainer Carolyn Beck went out on a buy recently and didn’t see much among the books and CDs that was very exceptional.  “However,” says Joe, “this guy was amazing!  He was a writer for the Carol Burnett show and won an Emmy for his work on the fifth season.  He also produced the 25th anniversary TV special for the founding of the state of Israel and worked with Jim Henson.”  Joe is pictured here delivering his fantasy Emmy acceptance speech. 

4. Leafing through a classic.

We occasionally find flowers pressed into books sold to us, but once, when I was checking the condition of a Disney Giant Golden Book from the seventies, I noticed that a large, perfectly-preserved marijuana leaf was pressed between a couple of pages.  On further inspection, I discovered a total of twenty, one inserted every few pages throughout the book.

5. Psychiatric and Psychological Examinations of Jack Ruby

A collection in a file folder, bought at our Kenwood store in Cincinnati, Ohio, contained the findings of Dr. Francis Forster, a noted neurologist who was called to testify at the 1964 trial of Jack Ruby for the murder of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.  Forster’s testimony countered Ruby’s insanity defense.

Documents included in the file: dictaphone recording and transcription of a meeting between Dr. Forster, assistant prosecutor William F. Alexander, and Dr. William Peterson; Forster’s interpretations of two encephalograms made of Ruby; copies of other physicians’ findings; and correspondence from Forster to Alexander.

This unique grouping of documents gained the attention of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, and was donated by HPB to that organization. The Sixth Floor is a John F. Kennedy museum located in the old Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald perched.

Certainly not all of our buys are quite this memorable, but there are enough to keep the buying gig pretty interesting!  Look for another five tales from the Buy Guy archives next month.

— Steve

Back to School + Ripping Out Textbook Pages

Hey stoods and profs: We’re talking to you today. What up? Has anyone coined the term ‘stoods’ for students? I think I need cred for that.

What?! I’m hip!

The start of the Spring Semester always seems like a misnomer. First of all, for many, the first day of the “Spring” Semester means donning a down puffer coat and wellies and trudging back to class in chilly temps or worse, snow and ice.

Speaking of– when is the first snow day!?

Whether you are a student with a whole new schedule or a prof with a new brood of stoods, we hope this semester is a great one.

So, what’s fun about starting back after Winter Break?

1) Having a good excuse to say the word “syllabus.” I mean that’s fun anytime. Say it. Fun right? I didn’t say I liked a syllabus, or that I was able to “keep up” with a syllabus…but I like saying it. Syllabus.

2) You have something to do on the weekdays. I mean really, whether you picked up a winter break job or have just been laying around watching daytime TV, you are ready to go back. You don’t want to admit it, but you are!

3) Buying books. I know, it is stressful, and a ton of money, but you know it has to be done– and nothing feels more back-to-school than waiting in line behind hundreds of your favorite co-eds, only to find out they don’t have the edition you need, and neither does the next bookstore, or the next . . .  But you kids have it easy these days: you can buy textbooks online!

            *SOME people I know (me) didn’t have the interwebs to do their textbook shopping, you lucky stoods, you!

So it’s off to class you go. Don’t you wish every first day of class started like this?

Best of luck to all and now, the countdown to Spring Break begins!

 –Becky (Former Stood)

 P.S. Teachers: obviously you’re just as excited (read: full of dread) as the kids to be returning, so let us help: HPB offers a 10% educator discount! Sign up here and let us take a tiny bit of the edge off. Happy learning, all!

Top 31 (PG-13 Rated) College Experiences (In Which I Not-So-Subtlely Encourage You To Order Your Textbooks* from HPB.com)

(Disclaimer: The following is a list of college experiences compiled from the HPB Blog Team and is not meant to directly reflect my own college experience. Except for the brilliant & funny bits — those are all totally mine. Also, please prepare yourself for some nudges to buy your textbooks from HPB.)

1. Move to college town. Feel so excited you might puke on your shoes. Or your new pot-luck roommate’s shoes. Try hard not to.

2. Get your textbooks. Which you ordered from hpbmarketplace.com (of course). Cheer (quietly, because roommate is napping. Again.) Roommate did not order textbooks from hpbmarketplace.com. Start to suspect this regret may be adding to her depression (naturally).

3. Request change of residence. Because roommate had a nervous breakdown, which may or may not have been textbook-related (but obviously it was).

4. Two words: Ramen Noodles

5. Two more words: Spaghetti O’s

6. Write a check at the copy shop for $1.27. Which bounces.

7. Forage for snacks. Take zip top bags to the dorm cafeteria and stash to-go food secretly in your back pack.

8. Acquire the resolve to do well in college, graduate, and get a job that pays enough to not have to eat mustard packets for dinner. Until then, make some cash by selling your first semester textbooks to Half Price Books. Use windfall to upgrade mustard from French’s to Grey Poupon.

9. Get dumped by your girlfriend/boyfriend. Woe. Gloom. Despair. 

10. Visit the Home Laundromat. Take trunkfuls of dirty laundry home to visit Mom. Upload enough “fun” pictures to Facebook to make all your high school friends believe you’re having the time of your life. Ask Mom if it’s normal to feel like you’re not having the time of your life. Feel better when she lends you a poetry book on finding yourself. (Which she ordered– wait for it — from hpbmarketplace.com.)

11. Wipe tears, and try again. Play the field. Find a new girlfriend/boyfriend, or fall in love with being on your own. Joy. Glee. Euphoria.

12. Join the intramural badminton team. Design the uniforms, including monogrammed sweatbands.

13. Score some battle scars. Try out for the local roller derby league, only to show off your best bruises to your sorority sisters.

14. Get involved on campus. Make some friends. Pledge a fraternity/sorority/social group, and find yourself doing and saying things you never thought you’d do or say (for which you can make fun of yourself years later, with the rock solid friends who did and said those things with you.) Wear school colors. Sing school songs. Develop undying hatred for rival schools and their state’s inhabitants. 

15. See your favorite band in concert for the first time. Call home and hold up your cell phone for your brother, who’s introduced them to all his high school friends. Buy him a half-priced LP for his birthday.

16. Watch six movies in a row. Decide you’re going to film school.

17. Learn to play the guitar. Decide you’re dropping out of school (don’t, though.)

18. Arm-wrestle. Thumb-wrestle. Lip-wrestle. (Just don’t actually wrestle. Unless you’re on the wrestling team, of course. Or playing Twister.)

19. Travel or study abroad. Don’t watch the movie Taken first. Grow up by leaps and bounds.

20. Immediately upload Louvre and Big Ben pictures to Facebook. Remember that discussion with your mom over laundry freshman year. Find the same inspirational poetry book at your local Half Price Books and give it to one of your new freshman friends, whose life it changes. (Don’t ask us how. It just does.)

21. Sit in on a class you’re not taking because you heard the professor is that good (or, because you’re majoring in Petroleum Engineering but actually want to learn about Cultural Anthropology.) Find the material so fascinating you order the textbook for some light reading. Guess where from.

22. Change majors — because the textbook makes you realize that Petroleum Engineering is rubbish and Cultural Anthropology is your real passion in life. Order more textbooks. Come to terms with the fact that Petroleum Engineering would have actually made for better job prospects than Cultural Anthropology, but it’s cool, because you decide you’d like to do Teach for America/Grad school/Peace Corps upon graduation. Realize you need to start volunteering. And recycling. And applying.

23. Meanwhile, turn 21. Go out and celebrate. Try not to die.

24. Curse loudly. Because while you succeeded in not dying, you discover that your car has been towed.

25. Eat your feelings. By comforting yourself with pizza from a downtown street vendor at 2 a.m.

26. Make impulsive decisions. Feeling sorry for yourself morphs into wild abandon. Get a tattoo from a downtown shop at 2:15 a.m.

27. Regret those decisions. Sob into your pancakes at 3 a.m. Because now Tommy’s hungry. 

28. Realize the epic brilliance of “the fourth meal.” It heals all wounds. And tattoos are (mostly) removable.

29. Watch the sunrise. Pass out till it’s dark again. Boot. Rally.

30. Have an epiphany. Discover that red Solo cups are the key to everything fun in life.

31. Have an actual epiphany. Think often about Mom and her infinite laundry-scented-poetry-book wisdom. Learn (in a myriad ways) that maybe college is not “the best time of your life.” And that’s okay. Isn’t it better to believe that your best days are ahead?

*Seriously though, you should order your textbooks from us. If you shop HPB Marketplace online, you can save up to 90% off campus bookstore prices. You can impress mom and dad before the semester even starts. If you’re a procrastinator (like me), be sure to choose expedited shipping to make sure those textbooks arrive in time for class. You’ll thank me for it later. Cross my heart.

And in the meantime, what are (were) your best college experiences (even if they were the worst at the time?) 

– Kristen D.