1. It's not just books.
Some classes require specialized products specific to the course. Some of the course materials such as books, e-books, workbooks and access codes are unique to a particular course and commonly referred to as "custom" products. Don't worry, though. We have these available for you, too! We've verified book orders for all courses at UCA, so we know we've got what you need.
2. The art of renting.
The best way to save money on course materials is to rent for the semester. Both physical books and e-books are available to rent. Nearly anything that can be reused can be rented, but products such as workbooks and one-time use access codes for online homework should be purchased new. Just like in everyday life, some things (like toilet paper and lottery tickets) shouldn't be rented. Even if you see a used or rental price, know that will result in more fees later you try to return the product.
3. You need your course schedule.
Your course schedule is your guide to the bookstore's website. You'll reference the department (such as Biology or abbreviated to BIOL), course number (which corresponds to the course name such as 1400-Exploring Concepts In Biology) and the section (which corresponds to your particular instructor for that course and time -- This is sometimes called a CRN). Just enter your schedule details and you'll see what your instructors have submitted as required for your course. You'll also see recommended or optional items such as study guides and solution manuals.
4. Watch the fees and add-ons.
These fees and add-ons include course fees, late fees, up charges or the dreaded bait and switch. When a website shows you a notice that your final total may be higher than what you see in your cart, beware.
Instead, look for websites with transparent pricing regarding both the actual price and the cost to buy the book at the end of the semester if you choose to keep it.
Some websites or bookstores charge the full purchase price to buy out the book while others allow you to apply the rental price as a credit toward the purchase price.
First-time renters are often concerned about needing the book after the semester ends but more often than not, especially for core classes outside you major, you won't need the book again. And don't worry about highlighting and notes in your rented books, as long as it isn't a distraction to the next person who rents the books.
We have a no-risk rental which means your full rental price can be applied to the purchase price at the end of the semester.
For example, if the rental price is $25 and the purchase price is $75, you would pay $50 to keep the book at the end of the semester.
5. Don't wait!
Some people will tell you to wait until after you attend your first class to buy or rent what you need, but doing so causes two big problems: you miss out on early promotions and sales and you risk being left empty handed, especially with specialized products like those custom books mentioned earlier (see #1). If you determine during your first week of classes that you don't need a particular product, you can always return it for a full refund, but if you need it and you can't get it, you're out of luck. With so many specialized products customized to each course, you can't just walk into a Walmart or order from Amazon the specific lab manual or access code required for your particular course.