All About the Books – sourcing curriculum for less

’bout the books, ’bout the books! (Sorry. I couldn’t help it. It’s a really catchy song…but let’s not get into the politics of it, ’cause that’s an entirely different blog post).

Kristine has already mentioned a few of the tricks we played earlier this year when we were biting our nails waiting for my student loan/scholarship to show up. The #1 expense for students at my university, (apart from food and rent) are course books we have to buy each term. Often, these books will cost a few thousand NOK (which is a few hundred $/£). The most expensive book on my reading list is nothing compared to the horror stories Kristine tells me about certain chemistry books that would cost around 1K NOK for one book. Compared to that, my most expensive book this year costs around 550 NOK (approx $70) when you buy it new. Normally, I would look for the books on my reading list on sites that offer these books used, where you can get these books for half the price that the retailers sell them for.

Last summer I got a job as a freelance translator. Things were great. Suddenly, I had a sidehustle that brought in some money next to my studies. Problem was that it was the last year of my BA and I quickly realised during the first few months of term that my grades were suffering because I was working. When January came, and it was only a few months away from turning in my undergraduate thesis (12K words), I knew that I couldn’t keep up the translation work and study at the same time. So I put the work on the shelf and buckled up to finish my degree. When I finished, I was once again ready to take on more work. However, the company that I worked for had moved to a different platform that was much more tailored to a ‘first-come, first-serve’-basis. Which is not bad in itself. But my phone wouldn’t give me crucial updates whenever new work was posted on the work app. So instead of being able to jump right back in on work, I was forced to spend money that was quickly dwindling, without being able to get any more money in.

So, here I was, starting my course and I had NO money. Absolutely zilch. Nada. All the money I’d managed to save up in January and February disappeared the closer to spring and summer we got. And when it was time to move away from London, if there was any money left, they got spent on the moving process. And I didn’t want to ask Kristine for money for books. My thinking being that if I can’t afford food, I’m certainly not going to spend the money I don’t have for food on books instead!

So, what to do when you can’t afford the books? The answer is actually pretty obvious. You get your ass to a library. And that’s just what I did. Now that I am a couple of months into the school year, I also have the option of borrowing a book or study with one of my class mates. But when the course had just started, I didn’t really know anyone and had to rely on the library for what sources I could find there. And the rest, I would simply just make sure to attend the classes – seeing as the classes are basically just summarising the content anyway!

But I had another trick I could use. As a student of literature, most of the books on the curriculum are books that are already in the public domain. There are numerous websites that offer these books electronically completely for free, including Amazon and Gutenberg. And in addition, you can even get a lot of the books for free as audiobooks at librivox. Sure, the lecturers do stress that having the exact copy on the reading list makes it easier to look up the page numbers they refer to during the class. But I find that I can live with looking at my neighbour’s text in those instances. Especially when it saves me several hundred, if not a couple of thousand NOK.

Roar, a purveyor of books
Roar, a purveyor of books

4 Comments on “All About the Books – sourcing curriculum for less

  1. I love books, and would quite happily spend all of my money on them. But I also LOVE libraries – the smell, the endless possibilities of reading material. We take our children to the library every few weeks and they view it as a morning out, the same way they would if we were going to the cinema or the park.

    • It’s great to hear that you take your kids to the library! I remember when I was a child, it was one of my favourite things to do with my parents. And as a child, I didn’t know that an activity like going to the library was free, either, and so I appreciated it just as much as any other activity 🙂

  2. When I did my BA in Lit, I wasn’t able to access my local library, so I hunted on eBay and Amazon for the books I needed, and sold books I didn’t want to keep for myself to pay for them 🙂
    It’s hard when money’s tight, or you’re saving up for something necessary, but I admire your perseverance in looking at any, and every, avenue to get the books you needed 🙂

    • That’s a great tip, thank you! 🙂

      We don’t have access to Amazon in the same way over here (well, we do, but often companies don’t ship to our country, or the shipping fees are ridiculous), so the only way to make use of it was with ebooks. Luckily, there is almost always a free edition of ancient lit. out somewhere! 🙂

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