5 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

girl college student textbooksThe average four-year public university charges around $8,000 per year for in-state students in tuition and fees, and that’s after you factor in financial aid. But if you’re considering a private school, the price rises to a jaw-dropping $28,000. To avoid racking up student loans, or worse, credit card debt, you’ll want to save as much money as possible. And one of the first places to look is textbooks. From 1986 to 2004, the cost of textbooks increased threefold. Since then, they’re still on the rise, but at a more modest 6% per year. However, with just a little research and planning, you can significantly decrease these costs.

1. Never Buy New
There’s just no need for it. You’re going to use a textbook for a few months at best, and you’ll get a relative pittance back even if you sell it online when you’re done. There are simply too many other easy, low-cost options available.

2. Buy Used
If you know what books are required for the upcoming semester, research them on the Internet to find the best used price. Good places to look are eBay and Amazon, but there are literally hundreds of places online to find affordable used textbooks. And if you’re buying last-minute, the cost to add expedited shipping is still probably much cheaper than what you’d pay new.

3. Rent
Better yet, you can also rent textbooks online and save even more. You decide how long you need the book – for the quarter, semester, or an even shorter period of time. In fact, there are plenty of websites where you can rent textbooks. And when you’re finished, you can typically print a label provided by the vendor and return it without paying for shipping.

4. Buy eTextbooks
You can save even more than renting if you purchase a digital version of a print textbook. And there may be a few added conveniences. Depending upon where you buy, you may have¬†high-speed search or electronic note-taking options available. And books are usually accessible for an entire year. Although they’re not as readily available as other options, if you can find one, this may be the best route to go.

5. Open Source Books
This is probably the least viable option, but still worth looking into. Open source textbooks are published under a Creative Commons open license which means they’re fully available to the public and free, depending on the format. If you find a textbook you need through an open source website like Flat World Knowledge, you can view it for free online. With this and similar websites, you can self-print the book in a PDF file for a small fee, or even request a black and white version of the book at a reduced cost. Most sites also offer audio versions of these books as well.

Final Thoughts
If you choose to purchase physical copies of your textbooks, don’t just let them collect dust on a shelf when the semester is over. Set up an account on eBay or Amazon and resell them to get some of your money back. Just be sure to describe the condition of the book accurately, package it with care, and ship promptly. The last thing you want to deal with is a return or an angry customer.

What other ways can you think of to save on college textbooks?

11 comments to 5 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

  • Good tips there. Never buy unless it is a work book. There’s really no need to buy new ones because new and crisp textbooks don;t guarantee high grades. And as early as your college years, it is great for students to be able to learn how to budget your money and to find alternatives.

  • Purchasing used books I think is the way to go. You can still sell them compared with leasing textbooks! However, I have not examined the costs of publication accommodations. Thanks for sharing.

  • Purchasing used books I think is the way to go. You can still sell them compared with leasing textbooks! However, I have not examined the costs of lessons accommodations. Thanks for sharing the post!

  • The best way has to be passing them down from class to class, almost making each textbook communal. If everybody adopted this way of sharing it would save every student a fortune, although I don’t think the authors would be too pleased.

  • little known on Amazon is that you can trade-in books for amazon credit. I used this method because it means that I can get rid of all my books really quickly. Amazon pays for the postage as well! Obviously counter to this is that you won’t get as much for the books. However, I traded-in 16 textbooks for ¬£112 amazon vouchers. Not bad for an hours work.

  • You can also buy from other students. That saved me a bundle and was insurance for my tiny budget when I was in school! It can lead to some insights on classes and professors, too, when you’re dealing directly with the students.

  • Buying used textbooks I think is the way to go. You can still resell them unlike renting textbooks! However, I haven’t checked the prices of textbook rentals. Thanks for the post!

  • I bought most of my textbooks used every year through college. I think you got it right with never buying new. You can save a ton of money buying used!

  • That’s undoubtedly a praiseworthy piece of writing. The points you have mentioned are really useful for acquiring guidance regarding saving money while being in college. I completely agree that we shouldn’t spend unnecessary money over new books if the requirement for the same is for a very short span of time. If we go for second hand books or rented one, its gonna serve the purpose, at the same time we can save from it. At the same time ebooks are another source of way out.. Great article.

  • I’m not a fan of renting. The rental cost is often the same as used, and if you decide you then want to keep the book, you still have to pay full price on top of the rental fee you already paid. I buy used off half.com, amazon, and sometimes ebay, and then if I resell at the end of the semester I can also make some of the money back (which you cannot do when you rent).

    Those, and Annie’s suggestion, are pretty much what I do.

  • If you can find someone who took the course prior to you, you may even be able to get them for free if the person just wants to get rid of them. Understandably, most students would want to make a little cash back on these, but you never know!