If you’re in college, you’ll know how expensive textbooks are. Like, crazy, out-of-this-world expensive.
If you’re not savvy with your cash, you can end up paying more than $1000 per semester on textbook fees alone. Add that on top of your already sky-high tuition, and you might begin to wonder why you enrolled in college in the first place.
But there is some good news. While I can’t make your tuition any cheaper, I can help you save money on the cost of textbooks. There are plenty of resources, hacks, tips, and tricks to help you slash the cost of your textbooks, and in this article, I’m going to cover them all.
So, without further ado, here are 9 ways to find cheap college books.
9 Ways to Find Cheap College Books
1. Avoid the Campus Bookstore
This is money saving 101. Your campus bookstore is likely to be the most expensive place to source your college books from. These bookstores push up the price as they know you don’t just want to buy their books; you need to buy them. And of course, having a store right there in the middle of campus where you can buy every book you need is super convenient, but it’s likely to cost you way more than necessary.
If you don’t have access to a magic money tree, then I would recommend avoiding buying any books at your campus bookstore unless it is your absolute last resort.
That being said, I do recommend going in to check the prices of the books you need so that you have an idea of what kind of deals you are getting elsewhere.
So, once you’ve headed down to the campus bookstore to a. gasp, and b. jot down some prices, and you’re ready to start shopping at an alternate location.
2. Buy or Rent Textbooks Online
Here are the most popular online stores to source college textbooks. Most of these sites allow you to buy new and used textbooks, and some of them even allow you to rent them for a semester.
The home of just about anything you’ll ever need is also the home of cheap textbooks.
And since you’re a student, you can sign up for an Amazon Student account, which works similarly to Prime, yet much cheaper. With an Amazon Student account, you’ll get discounts not only on textbooks but also on all kinds of essential items for college life. All you need to register is your student email address.
Just like Amazon, eBay has tons of textbooks, both new and used. It’s often a great place to find used books directly from other college students who have already finished the semester. There are some great bargains to be had, especially on Auction style listings that sell to the highest bidder.
And of course, you can use eBay to sell your textbooks once you’re finished with them too.
- Barnes & Noble
Barnes and Noble isn’t always the cheapest option when buying new and used textbooks. Still, they do have a great selection, and it’s often the place to go when you can’t find a particular book anywhere else.
Sometimes there are some bargains to be had at Barnes & Noble, especially in their used section. Plus, you can either buy online or shop in-store. If you live close by to a store, it means that you can have the book in your hand on the same day you purchase it, as well as return any books without having to ship them. It’s also worth noting that you can return books for free online too.
Chegg has revolutionized the way that college students access textbooks. You can rent a huge selection of the most popular college textbooks, including tons of new editions, for a fraction of the price that you’d pay if you went to your on-campus book store or any other regular online store.
Plus, when you receive your textbook and when you send it back, the shipping is free. Chegg will also buy textbooks purchased from other companies too, so it’s a good way to make a little extra money at the end of the semester on every college book you own.
There are some serious bargains to be had at Textbooks.com, especially when it comes to used books. And just like Chegg, you can rent textbooks here too at a super low price compared with purchasing it outright.
Plus, if you spend over $25, the shipping is free.
- Campus Book Rentals
With Campus Book Rentals, you can either rent textbooks for your upcoming semester (or however long you’ll need it for) or, you can sell your used textbooks back to them. Their sell/rent only policy means they have a strong focus on sustainability and make sure that our demand for the latest textbooks doesn’t negatively impact the planet.
Plus, they are ‘highlight it as you own it’ policy takes some of the stress out of renting books. Sure, you still have to take good care of the textbook while it’s in your possession, but if you make some highlights in there to help you in your studies, it’s absolutely fine.
- Better World Books
Better World Books has a pretty unique business model compared with pretty much any other online bookstore. They put people before profits and strive to equally consider their shareholders and their customers, employees, and the community at all times. Their company ethos is all about being a sustainable force for good that works hard to protect the planet and make positive changes in the world.
So every time you buy a book from them, they donate a book to someone in need. Plus, you’ll be helping to fund literacy projects all around the world. In a nutshell, if you’re trying to move away from Amazon for ethical reasons, then this is the online bookstore for you.
They sell all kinds of books, including a huge range of textbooks, and the icing on the cake is that they are reasonably priced too.
For a more in-depth guide to buying textbooks, including an alternative list of where to shop, check out our HookedtoBooks guide on the best websites to buy textbooks online.
3. Check a Price Comparison Site
Sometimes you don’t have time to shop around on every book store in person or online. That’s where a price comparison site comes in.
These sites will search through thousands of listings from all over the internet to find the cheapest possible option for the textbook you need. Just like when you want to book a hotel, you might head to Trivago to compare prices; these price comparison tools work in the same way.
A few good price comparison sites for textbooks are:
- Book Scouter
- Text Surf
- The Book Rocket
- Big Words
- StudentRate Textbooks
Just remember that although sites like these can make your life a whole lot easier and save you heaps of time, they don’t list every single textbook across the internet. There are still listings that won’t show up in the search results and plenty of other offline options for finding cheaper textbooks.
So, if you really want to save money, then make sure to read on before just purchasing the cheapest textbook on a price comparison site.
4. Sell Back Your Books
As I’ve already mentioned, there are plenty of sites out there that will buy your used textbooks once you’re done with them. Selling your textbooks can be a little time-consuming, as you have to list them, wait for a buyer, then package them and send them off.
Still, by selling your used books, you can save a fortune over a few semesters, and it can make your overall cost of textbooks next to nothing!
Plus, some websites will buy your books immediately to sell on themselves, meaning you don’t have to wait for a buyer before you get paid.
Here are the most popular sites that allow you to sell your used textbooks when you’re done with them. You’ll notice that many of them also appeared on the list of cheaper places to buy and rent textbooks too.
- Barnes and Noble
- Campus Books
5. Sell Back To Your College Bookstore
In most cases, you can also sell your books back to the college bookstore, even if you didn’t purchase them from there in the first place. As long as your campus has a particular book on the curriculum for next semester, they are likely to buy it back from you, as it’s almost guaranteed that they can sell it on. Many campus book stores offer this service, and some let you trade them in for the next semester’s books too.
The upside to this is that you get paid for your used textbooks straight away. Simply take them in, and they’ll hand over the cash. It’s super fast and super convenient.
The downside is that most campus bookstores will pay you the bare minimum for your used books. They will need to resell the book at a higher price to make a profit, so you’ll likely be offered the lowest amount possible to part with your old textbooks.
If you’re looking for a quick and convenient sale to scrape back some of the extra money you spent on books, then selling to your campus bookstore could still be a good option. But if you’d like to make a profit, or at least get the best price possible, then look at selling your books at one of the sites I listed above.
6. Buy or Rent an Older Edition
Textbooks regularly get updated. That’s the nature of knowledge; the more humans learn, the more we need to cram it into our books. So it’s no surprise that every so often, a textbook is updated, edited, or added to, and a new edition is released.
In an ideal world, we’d all have enough money to buy the brand new edition of a textbook so that we can be sure the information in there is appropriate to the class we’re taking. But unfortunately, the new edition of any textbook is likely to be the most expensive.
Realistically, many new editions don’t vary much from the previous one, especially when it comes to subjects that always remain the same, for example, Ancient History. Unless there have been some groundbreaking new discoveries recently that are going to be covered in this semester’s syllabus, then the key information will all be the same.
That’s why you can get away with using an older edition of a textbook with no issues whatsoever in a lot of cases.
If you’re still unsure if you can get by on an older edition, then contact your professor in plenty of time before the first day of class and ask them what they think. They will likely be sympathetic to how expensive textbooks can be, and if they believe that you can get by using an older edition, they’ll let you know.
Suppose you’re still struggling to find a better deal with an older edition of a textbook. In that case, you can also check out international editions. These can often be a fraction of the price.
7. Buy Books from Your Fellow College Students
This method can take a little forward planning, but it can be a good way to find heavily discounted books without ever having to shop online. During the semester before your class is due to start, seek out students who are currently enrolled in the class and see if they will be willing to sell their books to you when the time comes.
Many of these students will have purchased their textbooks outright and will probably be quite happy to sell them on when they’re done with them. It saves both you and the other student time and money, plus, you can both feel good about yourselves for recycling.
To find the students who are in the class you’re going to take next semester, you can:
- Approach the professor
Tell them your plan to buy textbooks from fellow students and see if they can introduce you to anyone. They might even announce the end of class and point potential book vendors in your direction.
- Check Facebook
Post in your student community groups or year groups on Facebook to see if anyone has the textbook you need. Some college campuses even have their textbook exchange groups. If you see one of those, join it right away; they can save you a ton of money.
- Check Craigslist
You can buy and sell pretty much anything in your local area on Craigslist, and textbooks are no exception. There could be students in your area listing exactly the book you need.
- Check the campus notice boards
Why not do it the old-fashioned way and post an ad on the campus noticeboards letting people know that you’re in the market for used textbooks? Leave an email address and see if anyone with the right books gets in touch.
8. Share Books with Your Fellow Students
What’s better than buying books? Sharing books, of course! Why not ask your fellow classmates whether they would consider sharing a textbook so you don’t have to buy one each? Suppose it’s not a super labor-intensive class and you’re happy to only have access to the book during certain times. In that case, splitting the cost between a few of you is the perfect solution.
Using this method can also be a great way of making friends with your classmates at the start of a brand new semester!
9. Visit the Library
For totally free textbook access, head to your campus library. In most cases, you’re not going to find the latest edition available for loan, at least not for more than a few days. But, you might get lucky and find an older edition, especially if you’re quick of the mark. You’ll be in tight competition with your classmates, so if you’re hoping to score a copy, act fast.
It’s also worth checking at your local public library too, especially if it’s a popular textbook. You’ll come up against less competition from your fellow students if you take your search off-campus.
In either case, make sure you have enough time to return the book before you get hit with any hefty fees. Otherwise, the library loan could end up costing you more than purchasing the brand-new edition.
The price tag of textbooks at your campus bookstore can be enough to make your eyes water, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to make some huge savings on college books.
Whether it’s buying them used, renting them temporarily, selling them back at the end of the semester, or getting even more creative and finding ways to share with your fellow students. Whatever textbook you need, there’s no need to shell out a fortune next semester.
Do you have any other hacks to help save money on textbooks? Drop me a comment in the box below!
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