SOC310 – PhD’s Guide to BOOK$


Have you ever taken a class and been forced to buy a $100 textbook? Have you ever been a teacher and was forced to assign a $100 textbook? It’s difficult to manage for both sides but don’t sweat it – we have the perfect PhD’s Guide to BOOK$ for you. Here at The Social Breakdown, we are all about accessibility! In this episode, we discuss cost saving ways for both teachers and students to navigate textbook assignments in college. There are cheap and FREE ways you can get a lot of your textbooks. Listen to the episode and then go visit your local library to check out a book!


Books, textbooks, college, teaching, accessibility, libraries, free


For students:

  1. Search your library! (Not only your university’s library, but also your county/city/state library. You’d be surprised by what you can find on their shelves!)
    • If it’s for a course, likely your prof has put the text on “reserve” at the library.
    • Learn how to use their online databases (when you’re looking for articles) and what access your school has. Your librarian is a good person to turn to if you’re having trouble here.
    • Use Interlibrary loans!! ILLs are when you can request a book that your university library doesn’t have from another school’s library. FOR FRIGGIN FREE. Your local county or city libraries also have this feature. 
    • Still can’t find it? Ask your librarian– specifically your department’s librarian– if they can purchase a copy of the book you’re looking for to “add to the sociology collection”!
  2. Ask your professor. Profs are given the option to get a “desk copy” of the books they assign to their classes. 
  3. Ask your classmates.
    1. Many courses are offered repeatedly, so you probs have a classmate who’s taken the course before. Ask them if they have a copy to borrow. If you really want it, ask if they wanna sell. It’s a win-win.
    2. Work with your classmates in that particular course to “share” books. By “share” we mean “scan”. Yes yes yes, there are some ethical and legal implications here. Be careful please!
    3. Also, if you’re looking for a specific journal article but you’re blocked by a pay wall, ask classmates (social media is a great tool for this too), but you can even go as far as asking the AUTHOR of the article! They’ll prob be happy to send it to you, so finallllly someone’s reading their hardwork!
  4. Look at free online resources, like
  5. Check out the book/publishers area at conferences. You’d be surprised how many books you can get for free over there. *Shout out to you, Penguin, for being liberal with your giveaways!*
  6. Last, check out good ol’ exploitative Amazon or eBay for cheap, used copies of the book. But If your town has used book stores, we recommend those more. 

Now all you teachers out there, what can you do?

  1. Place a copy of the book your assigning on “Reserve” at the library. If you’re just wanting your students to read one chapter, did you know you can get your library to digitally scan the chapter and put it on “Electronic Reserve” where your students have 24/7 access?? YUP! So do that, and you don’t even have to do the scanning yourself! The library staff does.
  2. Assign older editions of the book (because they’re cheaper!), and supplement it with additional materials, like articles and reports, to update the information. 
  3. At the start of the semester, encourage students to talk to you if they’re having a hard time with book costs. You can be the conduit between new and old students for book sharing/purchasing.
  4. Purposefully Use FREE materials, and that includes those things outside of books, like documentaries, newspapers, websites, radio, and of course, podcasts! 
  5. Don’t be that prof that assigns a $200 textbook unless it is truly necessary– and we get it, sometimes you really need to. So if you have to, DO NOT change the textbook every semester, so you can give your students a chance to resell or share with future students.
  6. Clickers! In large lectures, some profs will use clickers to gauge and quiz students. There are now plenty of free apps/websites that you can use in lieu of clickers that students can access if they have a smartphone or laptop. Some include:

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