I am pretty proud about the way I have saved money on texts in college, and I bug people with the stories often. Recently I saw a chance to share this with the world because the folks at lifehacker asked about it, so I sent them the email, got my invite to comment and commented. But decided I would throw the same tips and stuff up here, because, well as I said I am proud of them. So if you are looking for ways to stick it to the man when it comes to college textbooks, read on. There are lots of ways to save money on textbooks, clearly using firefox plugins like bookburo are top of the list, but here is how I saved before it was as easy to find inexpensive books for sale on the net.
First realize there are three types of books, ones you want to keep, ones you want only for the class at hand, and ones that are totally unecessary to do well in the class and the professor just threw it on to his list as it would help explain some concepts more deeply. (Sure you are there to learn primarily, but ya gotta have money to eat)
With that realization your first thing to do is find out from the professor his plans for the book, if they are really optional then don't bother buying it, or share with a friend or group of friends.
Okay, now we are at the point of books you need and you either want them or only want them to use for the class. So books you want, find the best price using the internet or finding upperclassman or alumni who have an older version or even the current version of some timeless texts.
Now the interesting part, books you need temporarily, first verify it isn't at your colleges library, if it is, you are set, borrow it and if necessary pay the late fees at the end of the semester if it lasts longer than your renewals will take you. $2.50 for the rental of a $80 book for 15 weeks is a nice savings.
If your school library doesn't have it, check local public libraries, you will be suprised what some carry. Again late fees can be justified in the overall goal of saving money. If you get no luck there check if your school has relationships with other school libraries, these may get you access to the library but not the ability to take out the book. You can now decide if it is worth an underhanded trick. You can hope the book will be there each time you return to study or do your homework. Or you can find a hiding place in the library where you can retreive the book but prevent the other schools students from checking it out. This is up to your own ethics on how you feel about this tactic, but it will save you money.
Finally there is ILL or Inter-Library Loan. Your school library or even public library may have the ability to borrow books on your behalf and lend them to you from a very large number of sources. If you can find the book put in the request. You usually can't get these for terribly long, but depending on the professors strategy with the text you just have to put your request in at the right time and you may have it for the time you need it. There is also the concept of extending the borrowing, and finally late fees here can be much less expensive than the actually book.
One of the keys to all of these strategies is timing. You need to be on the ball for any of these things to work, otherwise your classmates will beat you to the punch.