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Ah, textbooks. They're keeping your chiropractor in business, but how do you actually get your hands on the damn things? Look no further, I've got it all in my little black book!

Unlike school, there isn't a need to buy your textbooks before you start uni. In fact, it's really hard to know which textbooks (if any) you will need. Generally lecturers will tell you what you need to buy in your first lecture, or they will give you a course outline in your first tutorial.

Of course, what this means is that there is a mad, mad panic at the Co-op Bookshop during the first week of semester. Trust me: this is worse than the line for the girls' toilet at Big Day Out. This is worse than queues for rations in the Soviet Union! Not only are the lines long, the people waiting in them are tired, grumpy and ready to release their inner fury (sometimes with the very books they have just bought!) if you dare to skip ahead. Luckily the good people at the Co-op have lots of sugary treats on hand to deal with students who seem on the edge of Son of Sam-style mayhem.

However, a really nifty way to avoid these queues is to use the library textbook for the first week and then go to the Co-op the week after, when it is a haven of tranquillity! (I can't believe I'm giving away my secrets - now you're all going to loan the same books at once...so try to be quick!) Also, if you need to buy course readers (which are collections of weekly readings) from the Copy Centre, you can order them online. What an age we live in!

Another handy hint about textbooks: try to save some dosh between now and first week, as they can be pretty pricey. It depends on the subjects you take, but textbooks can cost between $30 and $200! Some subjects actually need more than one, so try to save a bit of money beforehand so you're not maxing out your parents' plastic!

If this seems way too expensive to you, try and scour some second-hand bookshops. There are heaps around uni: Gleebooks on Glebe Point Road, and Kelly's on King St. Kelly's is particularly good, but a word of warning: it might take you awhile to find what you're looking for. The staff have a knack of piling book upon book until the store resembles a paper version of tiramisu. And of course, there is the SRC Second-hand bookshop on campus.

Oh - and after all this, make sure you actually use your textbooks.


One little thing I found in first year: living as I did in the abject penury that is the lot of many an arts student, I realised that sometimes courses used only a few chapters from 'set textbooks', and sometimes, just sometimes, the cost of photocopying those chapters at the library (or at OfficeWorks on Parramatta Rd for half the price) was actually less than the cost of the text. Some people call me stingy. I think of it as academic thrift. (Of course, I always ensured that, when photocopying, I never did more than 10% of the total work in one session.)

Oh, and if you're a science student (or doing any science subjects in first year), you're in luck. Make sure you check out the Science Society Second Hand Bookstore (http://www.sci.soc.usyd.edu.au). They have most first year textbooks in stock, and the books there sell for about half of what they would normally cost. The SSSHB is also a good way to clean out your shelves and make some cash at the end of the year.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about uni but were too afraid to ask....