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Textbook companies often have business practices that force students to pay large amounts while already on a tight budget. While some courses have switched to more equitable and affordable models, such as open learning materials, some of your classes may still have expensive and/or unethical practices.

Here are some tips for getting textbooks.

1 - NEVER buy books ahead of time

In some classes, the book actually is an invaluable resource. You can see the Hall of Fame section below for some examples. However, with most classes you will find that you don't actually use the textbook. In some cases, the professor will TELL you that you don't need it sometime in the first week.

Sometimes you will need to buy a specific version of the book, you will need some special online access, or it might be cheaper buying from a particular source. When in doubt, it's always best to wait for the first week of classes.

2 - Find a PDF or EPUB of the textbook

Even if you ultimately get the physical book, a PDF is super handy for if you don't have your book with you. It's also often free.

3 - Try to buy books second hand

Most students want to get rid of their books once the term is over. Below you can find some places to buy and sell your textbooks.

Places to look for PDFs & EPUBs

  • Anna's Archive

    Somewhat newer source for finding textbooks and research articles


  • Library Genesis

    Most commonly recommended place for finding textbooks. Please note that this link changes from time to time.


  • Mobilism

    Has some books that you might not find on LibGen. You may need to make an account to see the book section.


  • Project Gutenberg

    ull texts of books or individual stories in the public domain. All files can be accessed for free under an open format layout


If you are looking for research papers, there's a similar section on the 📜 Research page.

Places to buy/sell textbooks


Sometimes a course or publisher will have shady practices that force students to buy new textbooks every term. This can include restructuring, renumbering pages/questions, or unnecessary online components. See TIP 1, even when buying second hand.

✅ Course Hall of Fame

Here are some courses that are a great model for afforable and ethical learning materials. These are textbooks that are affordable, open source, and/or closely tie in with the content in the course. You should still wait before buying these books, since this section is intended to show off some amazing courses and teaching teams at UBC.

Course Textbook Type Reason
CAPS 391 M & M Essential Anatomy Custom 🖇️ 📚 | "Reading the textbook was pretty much all you needed for this course"
CHEM 121 CHIRP Custom 🖇️
DSCI 100 Data Science: A First Introduction FOSS 🟢 🌐 | "Beautiful textbook that's really nicely organized"
MICB 202 Custom 🟡 🖇️
PHIL 220 forall x: UBC edition FOSS 🟢 🌐 🖇️ 📚 💻
PHIL 320 Sets, Logic, Computation FOSS 🟢 🌐 🖇️ 📚 💻
PHIL 322 Boxes and Diamonds FOSS 🟢 🌐 🖇️ 📚 💻
PHIL 323 An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is Free Text 🟢 🖇️ 📚 💻| Free through the UBC library
STAT 201 ModernDive FOSS 🟢 🌐

❌ Course Hall of Shame

These are courses where the textbook is expensive, unethical, and/or not useful for the course. This section is intended to highlight some courses that have been called out for their textbook practices, and hopefully encourage them to change.

One of the easiest ways that a course can improve is by making the textbook optional, or providing

Course Textbook Type Reason
BIOL 300 The Analysis of Biological Data regular 🔴👎🔢 | "Expensive and mandatory textbook written by prof. In class problems could only be submitted using newest edition of textbook." (link)
CHEM 111 unknown regular 🔴🚫🔢 | "Could not find that book online anywhere free or paid, nor could I find any used ones for sale". "Practice problems from the textbook are part of your grade and change every year" (link)
ECON 101 unknown regular 🔴🚫 | "Had to buy an expensive [...] textbook for a good chunk of your grade because you had to do the online quizzes that came with it" (link)
PSYC 101 unknown regular 🔴🚫 | "Had to buy an online textbook to submit homework that was worth 19% of your grade, and that homework was just clicking buttons repeatedly" (link)

Description of icons

Icon Description
🟢 Free resource
🟡 Cheap resource
🔴 Expensive resource
🌐 Open Source
🖇 Closely tied to the course content
📚 Long term value (even after course is completed)
💻 Accessible formats (ex. available online)
👎 Irrelevant / Not helpful / Barely used
⛔ Mandatory Online Component / Unnecessary bundling
🔢 Unethical practices (ex. small edits each year to force new purchases)