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How to: find your textbooks online


The “textbook rush” is a stressful time for college students. They generally have one retailer to choose from, the campus bookstore, which has a limited supply of the books that they need. On top of that, professors often wait for the first day of classes to let everyone know whether or not the “required” readings are, in fact, required to be successful in the course. So your average student is left with a tough decision; do they race to the bookstore to purchase the exorbitantly expensive Biology 101, or do they hold off and risk the bookstore selling out? Neither! They check their local Used site for a slightly used textbook that’s half the price. Here’s where to start:
Step 1) Find out the International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) of the books that you need. Responsible profs will list this in their course syllabus or at your campus bookstore.
Step 2) The ISBN should be a 13 digit number that may or may not be separated with dashes. Go to your local site and type your number with dashes and without dashes, separated by the vertical bar symbol (|) located below the delete button on your keyboard. Your search should look something like this:
978-0-19-542865-0 | 9780195428650
The | symbol means “or,” so your search with include ads that have the ISBN you’re looking for whether the seller included dashes or not.

Step 3) If searching for the ISBN doesn’t yield results, you can always count on keywords. Select two words from the book’s title, type them into the search bar, and separate them with the ampersand symbol (&). For example, if I am looking for “Environmental Change & Challenge, 3rd Edition, by Philip Dearden and Bruce Mitchell,” then I may choose to search for the keywords “environmental” and “dearden.” Your search should look something like this:
environmental & dearden
The & symbol means “and” (clever, I know), so your search will look for ads with both words in their title. This will ensure that your search doesn’t include irrelevant ads and that it doesn’t exclude ads that may have subtle differences in spacing or wording.
While these tips can be particularly helpful when looking for hard-to-find textbooks, they’re also incredibly useful when browser for other items on our site. Try it out and let me know if what works for you in the comments below. Happy textbook hunting!

As the social media and community coordinator at, Michael is the voice you hear when you phone our 1-800 number and the text you read skim three days a week on our blog. Keep up with his antics on Twitter @MrConkin.

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