How to Survive Business School: Using Older Textbooks

By Christopher Lotito

I started graduate school at Thomas Edison State College for my MBA in 2013.  Unable to find scholarships for the graduate level (for MBAs anyway), I ended up with more student debt.  Though not unexpected, this was disappointing, since I'd just finished up paying off my BA on a 9 year plan the same year.  That is my reason for wanting to buy used earlier editions of my textbooks on Amazon, rather than new ones.  You probably have your own, similar reasons for needing to save money.

This article will discuss resources that will help you use an earlier edition textbook without short-changing your education:

For example, the Finance textbook, "Corporate Finance: The Core 3nd ed." goes for $230 used on Amazon with the 2nd ed. going for around $20.  There are options in between, suffice to say buying an earlier edition saves about $100 per book.  For me, that's thousands of dollars over the course of my MBA.

Problems with Purchasing an Earlier Edition Include:
Missing Corrections
Missing Erata
Changes in Page Numbers
Missing Chapters
Missing Appendices

There are ways to get around these issues though:

1) The publisher's book companion website is your best friend.  A web search for "berk corporate finance companion" (no quotes) pulls up companion websites for several editions of the book on the first try.  -- I ended up using the 3rd edition companion site along with the book to finish the course as the differences between editions was distressingly great in this particular case.

2) The publisher's catalog contains free resources for students and instructors.  A web search for "berk corporate finance catalog" (no quotes) gives you the publisher's catalog page.  Unlike the companion site, catalog pages include instructor downloads, many of which are passworded.  Of the non-passworded materials, look for a Table of Contents PDF which you can use to compare editions (and address the page numbering issue), an Errata PDF containing corrections, and even sample chapters.  -- In my case, I ended up visiting a bookseller's site linked via the publisher's catalog which enabled me to use their scant half-page preview system to figure out some page number issues.

3) The actual files provided by the instructor can be incredibly helpful.  Today, many classes have their own website.  Often this website will include many of the files from the publisher's catalog which were only available there for instructor download.  Professors often offer solutions, PowerPoint files, and lecture notes for direct download and these can help to supplement missing materials in an older textbook.  -- ProTip: Does your professor not offer these helpful files?  Chances are professor teaching a similar class at another college does!  Once again, a web search turned these up for our example book within the first 10 results.  Remember, the Google search operators "site:" and "filetype:" can come in handy, as in "site:*.edu" or "filetype:ppt"

4) Libraries and other resources provide limited assistance.  I almost skipped libraries for this article because generally, they don't carry many, if any, copies of textbooks.  Still, I successfully used my local library's inter-library loan system to borrow hundreds of dollars in expensive textbooks and test-prep books in order to test out of a semester's worth of pre-requisites just to get into my MBA program.  Libraries also have numerous copies (and editions) of literary works and works of non-fiction.  If you're in Political Science, Literature, or any of the Classics, you can save money by using your local library.

5) Libraries and other resources, cont. - 2 resources that merit an entire article each are ereaders and study websites like .  We'll keep it brief here, but know these are great options.  Obviously, you can now buy textbooks on your ereader (Kindle, Nook, iPad) for about 2/3 of the cost.  This is dumb, don't do this.  It's not even like you can resell it when you're done with the course.  Instead, bear in mind that while you can only borrow physical copies of texts from the library, many libraries now provide the ability to borrow electronic versions of books for your ereader.  So if you needed to read a specific edition of "The Canterbury Tales," but 40 of your like-minded classmates have snatched every copy in a library for 50 miles, you may still be able to borrow an electronic copy.

5.5) Study websites like - Typically for a very affordable subscription fee, some study websites will give you access to an electronic copy of a textbook or textbook solutions.  These sites should be viewed with cautious optimism.  While they often provide an affordable solution for renting books, some professors and schools may take issue with the fact that they often provide textbook solutions as well.  Another issue is that your introductory rate may expire and leave you with a large credit card bill if you don't keep track of it carefully.

6) Like anything else, it is possible to pirate textbooks.  Please don't.  I mention it, because I'm sure the reader is aware of the ability to pirate textbooks electronically.  It's unethical though and the authors do not make any money off of the pirated books.  You'll need to make your own decisions about this, but a better solution is to check for a free copy on Project Gutenberg ( or Project Gutenberg Australia ( if the book is a literary or historical work.  As of 2014, Amazon is also in the planning stages to sell used ebooks.  --  For example, Chaucer, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, and others each have pages on Project Gutenberg with links to what would be hundreds of dollars in textbooks otherwise.

5) Sometimes it pays to ask.  If you get really stuck, due to huge changes between editions or problems with page numbering, ask the professor or one of your fellow classmates for help.  Yes, it says something about your judgement if you're constantly looking for others to bail you out, however, education shouldn't be about money.  If your car broke down or you had another financial issue and needed to turn some work in late to the professor, you'd discuss that with them too and often they'd be very understanding.  Most readers already had to go into debt just to enroll in classes, so having to admit that you're a poor starving college student, like the millions who have gone before you, really isn't anything to be ashamed of.  Many colleges in Europe and elsewhere offer a college education to all students, including foreigners, for free.  America isn't quite there yet, but saving money by using older textbooks still isn't something you should have to hide.

At ChristopherLotito.Org, subscribers will find all the information they need to educate themselves and their families about the issues that effect their lives.  A Drew University graduate, Christopher Lotito is a 10 year veteran volunteer within his municipal government in Pequannock, New Jersey.  Lotito is also an accomplished local author and possesses a great depth of knowledge in both New Jersey history and flood control issues which he puts to use as an independent researcher.

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