The City University of New York (CUNY) has a page, Textbook Savings, that lays out many options. Don't forget to use the MSU Catalog, rather than the CUNY Catalog link in the guide if you hope to find a book at MSU.
Lifehacker blog has a listing of "Five Best Places to Buy Cheap Textbooks" posted 8/22/2010.
Mark Griffin at San Francisco State offers Textbooks at a Discount, a list of links.
Open Textbooks are online freely available textbooks. They can be used as an alternative to higher priced textbooks. This is a fairly new idea and the links below do not lead to a great number of resources. Here's hoping the offerings will grow.
Open Text Book A registry of textbooks that anyone can access, reuse and redistribute.
Open Culture blog maintains a list of "150 Free Textbooks: A Meta Collection" posted on 8/24/2010
Student PIRGs guide to Open Textbooks.
Generally speaking, the MSU Library does not buy textbooks. Some of the reading students are assigned in MSU courses will nonetheless be available at the Library. How does this happen?
Not everything assigned will be a textbook. Sometimes the reading is a:
Other times it actually is a textbook but we happen to have it, either because someone gave us a copy or we bought it due to a faculty request.
One of the most frequent ways textbooks get to the library is when an instructor puts a copy or two on reserve for class use. Main Library Reserve reading is on the second floor of the West wing. Some branch libraries also have reserves, so be sure to note the location of items listed for a class. To find reserves you need only know what class it is.
When MSU does not have a book or our copy is checked out, you can sometimes find a copy in MeLCat. This is library sharing resource that allows borrowing from other participating Michigan libraries. The catalog gives the opportunity to "Get this for me." This will not work if you need the book for the whole semester, it is only helpful to tide you over until you can get the book. (Loan period is 3 weeks.) You need to name the library where you are located (probably MSU), and sign in. Delivery takes 5 - 14 days.