You've gotten the list of textbooks for your course. Before you sell your soul to the bookstore, find out which texts you really need and which ones to skip. Ask yourself these important questions:
Will you keep the book?
Thumb through the book and ask yourself whether or not you think the book will serve as a handy reference after the course is concluded. If yes, buy it, preferably new. If not, keep reading...
Does the course actually use the text?
Words to the wise: A book might be listed as 'required', but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to buy it! Some required texts really don't get used (ask upperclassmen) or can be borrowed. If you don't plan on keeping the book after the class, consider buying a 'used' copy. When in doubt, wait until the first day of class to make a decision.
Is this a lab book?
Laboratory workbooks need to be purchased and they need to be new. Don't try to sneak in a used laboratory book. Your instructor will not be amused.
Is the text available used?
Really popular texts are usually available in 'used' form. However, the text is probably popular because it is useful! If you need a book and will use it after the course ends, buy it new. If you are strapped for cash or the usefulness of the book is questionable, buy it used.
Will the book help you?
Sometimes a book is recommended, but not required. This is true for many study guides. Ask yourself whether or not you will benefit from using the book. Can the book be borrowed? Is it useful enough to buy, new or used? When in doubt, talk with your instructor.
Can I afford it?
Although this is a good question to raise regarding buying books, it is NOT a question to ask when deciding whether or not to obtain a book. The difference? Buying a book involves money. Obtaining a book might involve money, but it also could include borrowing from a student or professor. I don't recommend sharing important books. If you need a book, then get it!