The Black Market of Textbooks: An Initiation

(Credit: Afifa Suhail)

Less popular than buying new textbooks, the ‘black market’ is by far the best deal for students.

Freshers are rather clueless about buying textbooks. While bookshops seem the obvious answer, many are discouraged by the price, ranging between £30 and £100 – or higher – per book.

Amazon is a tempting alternative, but delivery time can be a problem, especially for cheap editions. Turns out saving £20 by ordering an £8 book from America is really too good to be true.

Then there is the ‘black market’ of second-hand textbooks. Surprisingly less popular, it delivers by far the best deal.

Take, for example, the ‘Comparative Politics’ textbook by D. Caramani – a compulsory read for first years taking the ‘Comparing Political Systems’ module at King’s, which retails for £34.99 at Waterstones. The cheapest price of its latest edition on Amazon is approximately £30. However, freshers buying it from second years saved around £10 on the retail price. “The book is like new”, said Sabina, a first year PPE student. “The girl I got it from never used it.”

How does the ‘black market’ work? Second years usually approach freshers, either at society events, by Facebook messages, or by advertising on freshers’ Facebook course groups. The latter method appears to be the most popular.

A mathematics freshman found a more creative solution. He printed textbooks in his home country for him and a colleague and had them delivered, saving £150 each.

Supply creates its own demand. When asked about the ‘black market’, many who had never heard of it instantly became interested. An organized second-hand textbook sale at the beginning of next year is definitely worth considering.

Of course, all the above is relevant unless you are a first-year psychology student. Then you get all your textbooks for free from the College.

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