4 Steps to saving money while buying books for seminary

booksThe other day we got a comment from Eric in our 6 ways to save money in seminary post about a book meta search site called addall and I was reminded that it is almost time to go book shopping. One of the great joys of being a seminary student is the opportunity to build your library… it is also a great challenge since books aren’t cheap. So, I’m going to share with you how and where I shop for books and hopefully you’ll share your tricks and tips as well.

Step one for me when shopping for my seminary books is to make a master list of all the books I need for the semester. Much like Santa, I make a list and check it twice… but mostly to make sure that I haven’t missed any as I shop. I typically do all my buying online, so having the list ensures that I don’t miss a book. The list is also helpful since it is rare that one site will have all the books I need. So, as I purchase a book I can check it off the list.

Step two is an easy one for me. I go to www.wtsbooks.com. Over the years I have found that WTS has some of the best prices online (95% of the time beating amazon). The kicker with WTS is in the shipping… $5 FLAT RATE (UPS Ground) no matter how many books you buy! See, shipping is going to typically be the kicker on many sites… you always need to keep in mind that a) shipping will be expensive or b) shipping will be slow. I don’t like either of those, so WTS gets bonus points in my book.

Step three is to consult the list and see how many books I have left. Now, I typically go to amazon on my second round of shopping for three reasons. First, amazon has a huge selection of books and, remember, when you buy across less sites you cut down on shipping costs… so knowing that I can get most all the remaining books I need in one spot is nice. Second, amazon typically has really great prices… not the cheapest all the time, but they are usually competitive with other sites (WTS excluded) within a couple dollars. Third, if you have amazon prime then 2 day shipping is free (free shipping is NICE! Also, if you don’t have amazon prime, just ask around and find a friend that does… or you can wait the 10 days for “super saver” free shipping). The fourth and final reason I use amazon is that I am an amazon associate which means I get a percentage of all sales generated off anyone who clicks one one of these amazon links… however, more so, if I use the link and then go buy something, then I get a percentage (I think up to 6%) back on my purchase. So, in all, amazon is just a good second stop.

Step four is for the books that WTS and amazon don’t carry. Typically, there is some obscure book that a professor wants you to get that neither of these places carry. In this case, the biggest time saver is to go to your seminary’s store. If it is on a professor’s syllabus, you can usually be confident that it is on the shelf at your seminary’s store.

Using the above plan, this is how my upcoming semester turned out:

WTS: 8 books = $135.20 (w/ $5 shipping incl.)
Amazon: 5 books = $90.06 (w/ free shipping incl.)
Seminary: 3books = $56.57 (w/ $11.45 shipping incl.)

Note: Yes I had my seminary ship my books… I live 20 minutes from campus, so it is a time/gas saver… and I might be a little lazy…

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Ryan Burns
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  • Thanks for the excellent book buying tips. I also love books and have enjoyed building my library as I further my education. Here are a few ways I’ve saved money on books over the years.

    1. Be sure to examine each syllabus closely, so you’re clear on which books are required and those that are optional.
    2. For those optional books or books where you’re only required to read a small section or chapter, you may want to try the library.
    3. If the library isn’t an option, you may want to check with other students who’ve already completed the class you’re starting. Just be sure to take good care of their books.
    4. If you’re going to be attending one of the annual Society of Biblical Literature or Evangelical Theological Society meetings, you may want to hold off on purchasing more expensive reference works until then. The majority of the publishers exhibiting at these events sell everything at half price. The only challenge is fitting all the books in your suitcase when you go back home.

    Happy studying!


  • Most def. the library is the way to save money. In Louisville, the 2 seminaries allow students to use both. I usually read the book the week before the book review was due and I didn’t really need the book after that. The public library in Louisville is always a possibility if the two seminary libraries don’t have the book available.

    It’s great to build a library, but there will always be updated or new textbooks on the same subject in the future when you need a book on a certain subject. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the books are so boring that you will never read them again. Once is torture enough.

Written by Ryan Burns