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The Cheapest Ways To Buy Your College Textbooks

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Why Empty Your Pockets Anymore?

The cost of textbooks is a costly one.  One that gets renewed every single semester.  At the cost of $500.00 - $1,000.00 each semester it is a huge drain on your pocketbook.  If you attend a four-year university that is $2,000.00 - $4,000.00 over the course of your studies.  That is a lot of extra money for you to pay out.  So do it?  There are several ways for a person to save some serious money on their textbooks.  Just spend a little time and you may find that you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the time you spend at college.  

Book pile

Look For Deals Online


The price that your bookstore displays is not the set price that every seller is asking.  Most online stores and sellers will ask far less.  There are several sources that you can go to for comparison to your bookstore.  One of my favorite places to visit is amazon.com.  They are such a large retailer that they have almost every book that you could want or rather need.  If they don't carry it, it is likely that one of the sellers that choses to list on Amazon will carry it.  The price comparison is often huge.  I have found many times that I was able to purchase a book as new for less than the cost of the book used from the bookstore at my college.  I have found that buying a book used from Amazon has resulted in savings of 70% - 80% for me many times.  If you are a student you can sign up for Amazon Student free for a year.  This will give you access to Prime shipping.  It will let you get free shipping on many of the products on Amazon including textbooks.  After the first year you can get a discount on a Prime membership.  The cost of which is negligible compared the cost of your textbooks.  With free shipping you can save money on many other items you may find yourself needing or wanting.  Did I that it is free two-day shipping?


This can be a place of huge savings.  Instead of buying your textbooks from a seller you are often buying them from a person selling their old textbooks.  They often ask much less than other sellers, but if it is an auction sale you may have a hard time getting the books that you want.  The price of a book may be really good.  If you are not the only one interested in it though you may find that the price you liked so much has gone up considerably.  If you find a cash buy that you like take it while you can.  The trick to buying from eBay is to buy when you can and to buy early.  You will also need to have a paypal account to buy anything from the site.  

Other Sites

I normally get all of my books through Amazon or the sellers that list on Amazon.  I have found that you can buy from other online sellers safely.  One that I have bought from several times is textbooksrus.com.  They have a huge selection of books and are often less expensive than my bookstore.  I know that you can find many deals with other online sellers.  The real cost here is the time that it takes to compare all of the sites and prices.  Again, however, the time you take to look may be well rewarded with the saving you find on your books.  Most of what I said about Amazon is true of other sites.  Just remember to do a little looking before you buy.  


Many textbooks are offered in electronic form.  This can save you some big money sometimes.  In fact some eBooks can be found for free.  particularly older texts and books on history.  They don't take up extra space in you already cramped room, and they really don't weigh anything.  If you go this route know that you will have to have your computer or some other viewing device with you when you want to use your book.  It helps to be comfortable reading from a computer screen.

Rent Your Textbooks

Renting your textbooks is a way to save quite a bit of money.  Your bookstore likely offers to rent books.  You can often rent textbooks as new or used.  Renting a used textbook you will be paying a lot less money overall.  You are bound by the terms of a contract that will dictate when you must return the book and the acceptable condition that the bookstore will take them back in.  If you want to rent your textbooks your bookstore has to have a copy in stock.  That is not true.  Many websites that sell textbooks, including Amazon, now offer to rent them out too.  With this you need to keep in mind the time for shipping.  If you rent your textbooks you wont get any cash back when you return them at the end of the semester.  That said I have found, at least for myself, that buying my textbook online and selling it to be the cheapest way of getting my books.  

Get Them From Someone You Know (Or Don't Know)

One of the best, but most unreliable, ways to get your textbooks for cheap is finding someone who wants to get rid of the book that you need.  If you have a friend or you know someone who has the textbook(s) you need you might be able to get them from them for FREE.  If not I would bet that they will sell them at a pretty good price.  Most of the people who sell books like this ask for less than the bookstore is asking and a little more than the store offered to buy it from them for.  If you don't know of someone looking to get rid of their old book look on community boards around your campus.  Look for listings at websites like Craigslist or Freecycle for people trying to get rid of their books.  If you are having a hard time finding anything you could try to launch a website or blog for book exchanges or sales at your school. That could take a while to catch on though.  Again, while this is one of the cheapest ways to find books, it is the most unreliable and sometimes the most time consuming.   

A Note On Buying Textbooks In General

Buying your textbooks from a source outside of your bookstore does come with a risk.  You could end up with a different book than your teachers intended.  Most textbooks are editions.  The newest have updated material and questions.  It is not alway necessary to have the right addition.  Since it is most of the time always make sure with your teacher ahead of time before you buy a different edition than that listed.  To make sure that you get the right book always look for your books based off of the ISBN.  Use the 13 digit number if you can.  This is the most accurate way of finding your book.  Sometime more than one book may have the same title or very close to it.  Editions of a book are likely to have the same title and often the same exact cover.  However each individual book has its own ISBN.  If you are buying your book used from a physical store always flip through it before you buy it.  If it is badly marked or damaged don't buy it.  Look for a different copy.  Just because one of the stores employees bought a bad looking book  does not mean that the one you try to sell it back to will.  Use your head and make the decision that fits you best when it comes to your books.  Time does matter.  I have found that buying your textbooks as soon as you can lead to huge savings.  If you are buying them online I have noticed several times that textbook prices tend to creep up during the months that classes around the nation tend to start up.  So if you can afford it buy your books as soon as you know what they are.  



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