first year,  no one asked

having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card


to build upon a previous aska’s post, the process of getting your hands on them might be a lot more complicated than you’d think. this is what i’ve learned so far in my time at u of t– hopefully it keeps you from making the same mistakes i did. that’s the idea, anyways, isn’t it? 

first question: what books do i need?

hit up this bookstore page and sign in with your utorid. once you’re enrolled in courses, you should get a list of the books you’ll need for each class you’re taking. sometimes it’ll take profs a while to upload those to the system, so there might be blank spaces– other times, those blank spaces mean there are no required books. what will you be reading in that case? i had one prof upload a bunch of pdfs and that was it. i would take that course again just to save money.

there are other cases in which you’ll need books, but they won’t be listed. that means they won’t be bookstore-offered texts, and you’ll need to take a trip to the bob miller book room, alicos printing, or print city to get your reading materials.

sometimes, you don’t even need to get books

there are certain courses that’ll list books but they’ll end up being optional, or you’ll never even crack them open. i haven’t found that this is common, but if you’re concerned about this you can always attend a few lectures before buying. what you risk by doing this is that you’ll be behind on readings, but the potential reward is that you get to save some cash.

with that said, there’s no way to know whether or not you’ll really need the book til your first class, when (hopefully) your prof will tell you. so it’s not a terrible idea to wait til you’ve attended at least one class to get your books.

  • the bookstore is…okay as an option if you need to buy

PROS: your books will be easy to find and in one place, they’ll be in prime condition if you’re interested in selling them later, and it’s located on campus so you won’t need to go too far. they also sometimes will rent out or sell used books, if you’re trying not to blow your whole salary on school supplies. 

CONS: $$$$$, and may not have all your books, especially if you’re in the humanities or social sciences 

there are many alternatives to the bookstore:

1. facebook groups: the u of t used book exchange (toronto) is the only group i’m aware of, but it’s quite a good one.

PROS: negotiable prices and bundle deals, meetups usually on campus

CONS: can be a bit sketchy so use caution. ask about highlighting and writing before you agree to buy, and check your books before you leave. also– don’t take a seller’s word that the books they’re offering will be what your course needs. pay special attention to differences in edition, because sometimes it MATTERS.

2. discount textbooks toronto

i’m not sure how viable of an option this is anymore, as their location recently moved from our campus to ryerson’s. however, i’ve heard that you can get some good deals here.

3. used bookstores on bloor

these aren’t a particularly good option for lifesci texts and the like, but if you’re in need of novels or similar assigned reading material and have a bit of time on your hands to search, used bookstores are a good bet.

there are certainly used bookstores in other areas, but bloor west of campus has some good ones. i like BMV books because i’ve found they have pretty good pricing. the varsity has done a piece on used bookstores, on bloor and otherwise, that’ll highlight a few other options for you.

4. tusbe, aka the toronto university student’s book exchange

as with all internet-based exchange sites, please! exercise! caution! to avoid getting clobbered in one of those strange alleys on harbord and any other, similarly unfortunate, things that could happen to you.

5. amazon

if i’d known how many of my books were available used on amazon, i would never have bought them off the u of t book exchange or the bookstore. amazon is way cheaper if you get lucky, people. the downside is that you do have to wait quite a bit of time for shipping– a few weeks, i think, in my case? but it can be useful for yearlong courses with texts you won’t need til second sem.

there are also many alternatives to buying books:

1.the library — and by the library, i mean the online search thingy. it’s not a bad idea to look your textbooks up in the system before you commit to buying them. i got through a whole semester once by renewing and renewing and renewing a class textbook i got at gerstein. on occasion, you can get even luckier– i heard some of HIS103’s books are available as downloadable pdfs through the u of t library. this is a big win, @ first year IR kids. it’s legal and it’s free. 

heads up that some local libraries can have online ebooks you can borrow as well. check yours!

2.course reserves– they’re only avail to you for ~2 hour loans and can be unreliable, but are definitely an open option. if your books are in course reserves, your prof will usually say so or mention it on the syllabus. 

3.renting books — you can do this either through the bookstore, or rent ebooks from amazon. if you can find your books as ebook rentals on amazon, that’s a real win. you can’t get any more win than that. i once found a textbook for $8 rent, when it would’ve cost me around 70 new. check both and, because even after exchange rates .com can have better prices for text rentals.

4.the lovely lovely world wide web– some novels, like heart of darkness, are free on the web through project gutenberg.

a new and revolutionary option:

do almost any of the above, but split it with a friend in some way. obviously, how well this will work depends on what kind of book you’re talking about, what kind of reader you are, and what kind of friends you have. it’s something i wish i had thought of earlier, though.

my first year, i bought a book new from the bookstore and was so determined to keep it tip-top shape to resell that i never even really read from it, just took pictures and viewed them off my laptop. i did fine learning this way, but later realized i didn’t actually need the book if this was all i was going to do. i could probably have taken photos of a friend’s book and just bought them lunch, or presented some kind of other compensation they were okay with.

it’s not the best call if you like writing or highlighting in your books, or if you simply prefer paper to a screen, but it’s something to consider. i feel like any other way of splitting a book could get complicated with custody, but maybe there are possibilities that haven’t crossed my mind yet. use your imagination, friends.

hope this was helpful! go get ’em, friends (or hey, don’t)!

be Boundless,



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