When I sit in the third year of medical school and look back to the days of my first year as a fresher, I cannot help thinking what kind of a fool I had been in the matter of buying textbooks. But as it is said, hindsight is better that foresight, I can only think of the mistakes I made and what I learnt from them, from other freshers and seniors and share them with the freshers who will be facing the same situation I faced a couple of years ago.
The first question that you should ask yourself is whether you really need the book. It is not necessary that a book recommended by the faculty be the best that is available. Be discriminating. Find out which ones are relevant. It also depends on the kind of temperament that you have. Are you the kind who is patient and will go through a book from beginning to end or are you the kind that prefers a type of book that prepares you for an exam? If you happen to be the kind who can just listen to a lecture and absorb the concepts, all you might need is a exam primer. But then, the books that are more concept oriented are essentially required for multiple choice questions (MCQs). You have to strike a fine balance in your choice.
Do not purchase a textbook based on a friend’s recommendation. Your reading habits may differ from that of your friend’s.
Scan through the book before purchasing it. Look beyond the cover, at the flaps and at the back of the cover jacket. There may be reviews that will tell you a lot about the book. Look at the preface and the introduction. These are the places where information on the scope of the book, the kind of audience it is addressed to and other valuable information will be available. The contents page will also be helpful in helping you to come to a judgment are to whether the book contains the material that you require. Even the index should be of help.
A new book would be unfamiliar to you and it is wise to get the opinion of a few of your seniors. You might even ask your professor or your lecturer to narrow down the choices and their specific recommendations.
Another way to judge a book is to get it from the library and browse it for a few days before coming to a decision on whether to buy it or not.
There is the possibility that a book that is recommended be too heavy for you. Heavy in the sense that you might find it too difficult to read. Then it would be better to get yourself an introductory one on the subject. If you use it properly, you will find that you’ve got yourself a book worth its weight in gold.
If you intend to get an initial grasp of the subject before venturing into the details, get yourself some supplementary or reference text. Always check out the library for books that may have only a topic or two of interest. No point in wasting your money on a complete edition when all you require is a part of it.
Once you come to a conclusion on the books that you intend to pick up, look around for places where you could possibly get the biggest discounts. As a fresher you may not be aware of the places where discounted books are available. Some books that are just going to help you clear an insignificant exam should best be bought secondhand or borrowed from a senior. Another way, though strictly illegal, would be to photocopy it; but then everyone does it. Most major bookstores stock secondhand volumes, it does not matter which edition it is unless there are some significant additional material in the newer editions. Street side vendors might even provide you with the required book at a fraction of the original price.
If you are buying new books or editions, make enquiries at different bookstores. The cost of a few phone calls could offset the price reduction that you might possibly get for a volume. Most bookstores offer free delivery to your home and a few also offer rexine covers.
As such, don not be in a hurry to buy textbooks. Give yourself enough time and good reason before laying out your money for a specific book. Let the others buy first and learn from their experience, good or bad.