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Top 10 Used Physics Textbooks

Updated on December 20, 2012

Where can I find a Physics textbook for college?

Campus bookstores carry few used textbooks, which leave us having to pay full retail prices. In new condition, many of these books cost $150 - $170. The few used textbooks you do find are typically highlighted and in poor condition, not to mention, they are only discounted 25% from the huge pile of crisp new ones next to them. What to do?

We have outlined several tips for buying used textbooks, as well as, listed the top 10 Physics textbooks used nationally. Our list outlines the current edition, prior edition, and anticipated publishing date for the next edition. Why is the edition so important?

1. For homework assignments, you will want to purchase the edition that matches the course syllabus.

2. You will want to avoid making the freshman mistake of buying an older edition from an upperclass individual desperate to sell.

3. By knowing what drives used textbook pricing, you can avoid the common textbook cycle of feast and (forced) famine which is imposed upon students by publishers who create "revised" editions to avoid sales competition from a growing circulating of used textbooks each semester.

4. By knowing the next publishing date, you will maximize your sale price at the end of the semester if you decide to resell your book.


I have had good success with Amazon and Half (a division of eBay). Buying randomly at these sites can be problematic, but your success rate can be significantly increased with the following tips.

Tip #1 (pricing) Compare pricing at each of the sites by typing in the ISBN number of a book you are looking for and perform a search. You do not need to have an account at any of these sites to window shop pricing. By comparing prices before opening an account, you will become familiar with the ease of use of each site and the inventory of used books available.

Tip #2 (condition) Only buy “Like New” or “Good” condition books. Those listed as “Poor” are many times water damaged or are older editions listed incorrectly under the wrong ISBN. Avoid purchasing from anyone who has intentionally listed a textbook under an incorrect ISBN. These individuals will rarely provide a refund and will have a low feedback rating.

Tip #3 (rating) Amazon and Half offer ratings of their sellers. I don’t suggest buying from someone with a zero (0) rating as they are a new account and have little to lose by not shipping the product. Let someone else take the risk and be the “ratings scout” I strongly suggest that, if money is tight, you don't risk it on a low rated seller. Additionally, there are individuals who lose their accounts due to fraud and will open multiple accounts under different names to continue their scam. I ran into this once on eBay and have since avoided low rated sellers. I recommend buying from sellers with a minimum of 5+ positive ratings and few, if any, negative ratings.

Tip #4 (description) Take the time to read the description and, if there is one, look at the sellers attention to detail. Someone listing a book as “good condition, some highlighting” is not as likely to ship a book promptly as someone who writes “5th Edition. Hardcover. No edge wear. No writing. Yellow highlighting on 12-15 pages in first chapter only” A well written description tells a buyer the seller is a person who pays attention to detail and is not selling mass copies of old trashed books they found in a dumpster or yard sale.

Tip #5 – (shipping) While Media Mail is a terrific service and an inexpensive way to ship a book, avoid using this service. Pay the extra $2-$3 for USPS Priority Mail. Unlike buying a novel for relaxed evening reading, a textbook is typically for a new class and you will need it timely. Media Mail can take 7 – 10 business days for a delivery. Priority Mail takes only 2 – 3 days for a delivery. Once I ordered an Economics textbook and, by the time I received it, two weeks of class had passed and our first quiz was in 2 days. This is not how you want to start your new class. The delivery delay was not the fault of the seller, who promptly shipped the book the day of the purchase. It was my fault for not understanding what the Media Mail service represented.

Tip #6 – (email) Once you have purchased a textbook online, you will receive notification via email of the transaction. If you are provided the email address of the seller, write them a quick note letting them know you will send a courtesy confirmation note once the book arrives. Most sellers appreciate the gesture and will quickly get the book in the mail.

1. Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday & Resnick (9th Edition)

NOTE: (9th Edition released March 2010) ISBN: 0470469110 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (8th Edition - not in use - phasing out) ISBN: 047004473X / 0470044721

2. Physics by Cutnell & Johnson (9th Edition)

NOTE: (9th Edition released Jan. 2012) ISBN: 0470879521 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (8th Edition released Jan. 2009) ISBN: 0470223553

3. College Physics by Serway / Vuille (9th Edition)

NOTE: (9th Edition released Jan. 2011) ISBN: 0840062060 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (8th Edition released Feb. 2008) ISBN: 0495386936

4. University Physics by Young, Freedman, Ford (13th Edition)

NOTE: (13th Edition released Jan. 2011) ISBN: 0321696867 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (12th Edition released Mar 2007) ISBN: 0321501217

5. Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer by Incropera / DeWitt (7th Edition)

NOTE: (7th Edition released Apr. 2011) ISBN: 0470501979 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (6th Edition released Mar. 2006) ISBN: 0471457280

NOTE: (5th Edition released Aug. 2001) ISBN: 047120448X

6. Fundamental Astronomy by Karttunen / Kroger / Oja / Donner (5th Edition)

NOTE: (5th Edition released Aug. 2007) ISBN: 3540341439 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (4th Edition released Aug. 2003) ISBN: 3540001794

7. Fundamentals of Thermodynamics by Borgnakke & Sonntag (7th Edition)

NOTE: (7th Edition released Aug. 2008) ISBN: 0470041927 [CURRENT EDITION]

8. Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths (4th Edition)

NOTE: (4th Edition released Oct. 2012) ISBN: 0321856562 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (3rd Edition released Jan. 1999) ISBN: 013805326X

9. Engineering Fluid Mechanics by Elger / Williams / Roberson (10th Edition)

NOTE: (10th Edition released Aug. 2012) ISBN: 1118164296 [CURRENT EDITION]

NOTE: (9th Edition released Sept. 2008) ISBN: 0470259779

NOTE: (8th Edition released Dec. 2004) ISBN: 0471487376

10. Essentials of Geology by Lutgens / Tarbuck / Tasa (11th Edition)

NOTE: (11th Edition released Jan. 2011) ISBN: 0321714725 [CURRENT EDITION]


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