Getting It in Writing; It Pays to Shop around When You Are Stocking Up on Your Course Reading. Mat Smith Offers a Whistlestop Tour of the Best Bookshops for Students

Article excerpt

Byline: MAT SMITH

BUYING books for university is a tricky business. For many, these tomes will spend most of the year keeping doors open and propping up wonky tables which, given that the National Union of Students predicts that each student will spend an average of [pounds sterling]378 on books this year, is an expensive way to furnish your house.

The start of term is the best time to purchase and, with a little thought, this can be done without spending your entire loan in a day.

General stores

Don't limit yourself to the student bookshops on your campus. These are often quite small and so don't always have the required texts for all courses. They are less able to offer low prices. Head to the large chains for the biggest selection and best bargains. Waterstone's on Gower Street, for example, has a huge supply of academic books, and the Piccadilly branch purports to be the biggest bookshop in Europe.

The chain stores will provide some good deals. Blackwell's is a student favourite, offering a selection of new and used coursebooks. Borders has student days, where it sells relevant books at heavily discounted prices. The exact dates vary from store to store: get details and your closest branch on the company's website.

Foyles, the independent bookshop on Charing Cross Road, is not a specifically academic place, although staff are friendly and will help you find what you want amongst the slightly haphazard arrangement.

Charing Cross Road is famous for its bookshops and is packed with both well-known chain stores and second-hand bookshops.

Nearly new

Buying second-hand texts could save you a fortune - but might not be an option if the books you need are updated regularly.

Regardless of what course you are on, however, it is always worth visiting Skoob in Russell Square. This shop has been widely lauded as the best second-hand bookshop in London.

Philosophy, art, modern literature, science, history and politics are Skoob's specialist subjects, although it deals in titles in many areas of academia and its selection is mindbendingly comprehensive.

The store also publishes The Skoob Directory of Secondhand Bookshops in the British Isles ([pounds sterling]7.99, postage free in the UK). This lists more than 1,450 bookshops and includes indices of towns, shops and subjects, maps and route planners, plus a set of helpful articles on book terminology and the trade in general. The seventh edition also contains a listing of Greater London bookshops selling new titles in specialist areas.

Selected books from Skoob's stock are available online through www.abebooks.com, a brilliant site which specialises in sourcing second-hand and out-of-print books.

Again, Charing Cross Road is awash with second-hand treasure troves. …