By Jesse Collier. Updated August 2017.
We all know the dread of going to the campus bookstore only to spend hundreds of dollars every semester. Here’s our top tips to help you save money on textbooks!
Textbook costs probably aren’t one of the top things that you think of when you get your student loan.
In the US and Canada, students spend on average $1,200 per year on textbooks, and that cost is only rising.
Textbook costs shouldn’t be the bane of your school career, so here’s our top tips to save money on those ludicrous prices.
15 Ways To Save Money On Textbooks
With the school year fast approaching, we put together a list of 15 ways to save money on textbooks so you’ll still have money left over for rent and tuition after book costs.
Remember that while not all will apply to you, try your best to use as many of these ways to save hundreds per year.
1. Buy Used Textbooks
If you like brand new books, it’s time to get over that and buy used or second-hand! You have to keep in mind that you’ll probably get rid of them after you’re done the class, so they don’t need to be nice and shiny.
Most universities will have sections in their bookstore for used books where prices can sometimes be half-off or more. You can also look on sites like Amazon and Chegg to see if they have your textbook available.
The key here is to have patience. If you can check online sale sites and sift through garage sales, you might turn up with something useful.
You could also check out shops near your school, where students are likely to drop off their books at the end of the year for a quick profit.
Doing a quick Google search will have you with thousands of results for used textbook stores, but it can be a bit of a chore, so here’s some we verified to work for you:
2. Check Social Media
Students often put their used textbooks on social media to turn a quick buck and get rid of them before the new school year starts.
Check your local buy and sell group. Schools usually have one just for students, so this would be the best place to save money on textbooks. Also check other Facebook groups in your city if there are more schools in your area.
Another place to look for discounted textbooks is on platforms like Reddit, where other users might have the book you’re looking for. Make a post in r/slavelabor and someone is bound to have what you need.
3. Ask Upper Years
Do you have a group leader from first year that has gone through all the same classes you’re doing? How about a friend that went ahead and spent their summer in class to get ahead?
Ask anyone you know who might have taken the classes that you need textbooks for. Odds are that someone will have it, and you’ll get a friend discount to boot.
If you’re buying more than one book from the same person, it might be worth it to get a better deal and bargain a little to save money on textbooks.
4. Use eBooks
If you’ve ever browsed for textbooks you probably noticed an “eBook” option. EBooks are huge right now, with a lot of books and textbooks alike being converted to electronic versions right from the publisher.
This makes it easy on you, the consumer, because you don’t get all of the paper and ink costs associated with buying paperback or hardcover.
You can read eBooks on pretty much any gadget, and even have them synced across all of your devices, so you can take them anywhere. It also makes it easy to do last-minute homework if you need to find keywords easily without flipping pages.
Also look on free eBook sites to see if they have your textbook. This is useful for subjects such as math, where the materials doesn’t change very often. Beware though, as this can get you into legal trouble. It IS piracy if the sites don’t have copyright for the books.
5. Grab Other Editions
Odds are that your textbook is already a few editions in and your instructor uses the latest edition in class.
Instead of the latest edition, consider getting the previous or the international edition. Both will usually have much the same content, with possibly a different cover and some different practice problems, but at a fraction of the cost.
This might depend on your field though, as some textbooks need to be updated regularly with new content, such as geography or law textbooks. Ask your professor if other editions will be okay for your class.
6. Use Your School’s Resources
Every university will have a large bank of articles and scholarly journals for you to use in your projects and assignments.
While journal articles can be a bit of a bore, they still come in handy especially for essays, where the profs want sources for every single fact.
Google Scholar is another good one, which pulls in articles from many different sources. Usually the good ones are paid, but your school might have a subscription to them, and if not, then there’s almost always part of the text to preview.
7. Watch For Student Discounts
This goes without saying, but if there’s a student discount, take it. Some places won’t advertise it outright, so you’ll have to ask if you want a lower price.
We also have a large section of student deals, so bookmark it and keep an eye out for textbook deals that might come up.
8. Look Online
Another popular way to get your textbooks is to look online. Often retailers will have huge discounts a few weeks into the school year to get rid of stock. If you can wait until then, it could be well worth your while.
Check out Google Shopping for the best online discounts on the textbooks you need. You can also get some serious discounts on Amazon or eBay, but remember to factor in shipping costs as those can sometimes overflow into your discounts.
9. Try Your Library
Getting familiar with your library on campus will do wonders to drive your textbook costs down.
Your school’s library will usually have copies of all the textbooks that your profs require. That means if you go to the library early enough, you’ll beat your classmates to the punch.
Also, take a look at reserving books before the class starts. It will put you next in line for any books you need, and it will stop other people from constantly renewing them.
You should also check your local library for books. While they won’t have content on computational theory, they might have more general material that could be useful for writing essays.
10. Return Your Books
While this won’t be as easy if you’re a bit rough with your books, you could try returning them at the end of the year.
As long as your books are still very close to the original condition (and weren’t package-wrapped in the first place), it’s worth a shot to get your use out of the book.
At the very least, you’ll get bookstore credits for it and they’ll take it as used. You can then use that credit to buy more books for your other classes. Rinse and repeat.
11. Sell Your Textbooks
If returning your books doesn’t pan out because you spilled your coffee on it in those late-night sessions, try selling them instead.
While you’ll have to drop the price quite a bit if there’s some damage done to them, you can still sell them for some cash, and people are usually happy with any amount off the bookstore price.
Selling your books is also a great way to make money for other expenses, such as rent or tuition.
12. Try Textbook Exchanges
Another option you could try is textbook exchanges like student2student.
The platform is basically an eBay strictly for textbooks and provides a market for students looking to buy and sell.
Chances are that you have a textbook that someone else needs, and all you have to do is meet up with the potential buyer on your campus.
Your school might also have a group on Facebook for a textbook exchange, so keep an eye on that for huge savings.
13. Share With Friends
If you happen to have friends in your classes or someone around that you know, it might be worth a shot to see if you can borrow the textbook that you need.
You could also set up a deal where you pay half of the costs of the book and share it back and forth. Sit together in class to make sure the textbook is always around.
Sharing textbooks will also ensure you get work done quicker and that you have all the class notes, but be careful if your friend is a known slacker!
14. Rent Your Textbooks
You don’t ever have to worry about buying or selling your textbooks again! Textbook rental allows you to borrow your books for a set period of time, without the concern of ownership.
We like Chegg because you can save up to 90% off textbooks, there’s a 21-day risk-free return period, and you get a free 4-week trial for Chegg Study. If you like the book enough or need it for another semester, you can also just purchase it without returning it. And by the way, returns are free with their prepaid labels.
If you’re not all about Chegg, there’s many other options to save money on textbooks as well. Most of the sites that we’ve linked to above like Valore also rent textbooks out to students.
Some schools have even taken to providing their own renting services. They might buy it then rent it to you if they don’t have it in stock, but you’ll have to let them know ahead of time.
15. Ask Your Prof
Some professors only require a few chapters of the text and then ditch the book, so this could weigh heavily on your decision to buy that brand new text.
If you can, try waiting until your first or second class, as those are usually the introductory classes where you’ll get the information about your textbook. You could also ask your prof about using other editions, and you could get the slip on other people to see if the prof has any extra copies for you.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how much time and patience you have to dedicate to finding your textbooks. If you put in a few solid hours though, it could save you hundreds.
Do you have other ways to save money on textbooks that weren’t covered on this list? Tell us below!