If you know anything about college textbooks, you probably know that they’re expensive. College is expensive on its own, and having to buy pricey textbooks adds even more pressure! I pay for all of my own education, through scholarships, loans, and my own savings – so I don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars every semester on textbooks. I’m also in a major that requires a lot of reading. My first semester, I bought or rented all my books through my college bookstore. Huge mistake. It was ridiculously expensive. Fortunately I’ve learned since then, and in the past few years I’ve found some tricks for saving money when it comes to textbooks.
Finding What Textbooks You Need
When you schedule your classes, most universities will link to the textbooks you “need” and urge you to buy them through the college associated bookstore. Often there will be multiple versions of each book, and there are often books included that you don’t really need. Cross-reference that list with your course syllabus to find the right books. If you’re anything like me, it’s too stressful to wait until classes start to buy books. You might end up having to pay for rush shipping or even the bookstore price. Instead of waiting, I make sure that wherever I buy my books from has a 100% refund program – and I check any syllabuses that become available before classes start.
Where to Buy Your Books
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical website where you will find all your books for free. The best way to get low prices is to put some extra time and effort into it (why is this always the case?). Once you know what textbooks you need, use the isbn number to search for it on other sites. Don’t use the title, because it is easy to accidentally buy the wrong edition, which will have different page numbers and will likely be useless.
Don’t go to one website and buy all your books there. Just because it’s the cheapest for one book doesn’t mean it will be for them all. Cross check and compare to find the best price. Sometimes *gasp* your bookstore might even have the cheapest version available.
If you want to rent your books, the website that I use the most is amazon – their new rentals program is considerably cheaper than renting textbooks through your college bookstore. Plus, as an amazon prime member, the books usually come in two days and shipping there and back is free. Sign up for a free trial here to get your textbooks shipped in two days! Plus, if you do it here, I get a small compensation!
Amazon is able to get cheap prices because it connects hundreds of sellers in one place – so make sure you search for the lowest price. Although I haven’t used it, I have also heard chegg can be fairly cheap.
- Make sure you remember that you have to be a bit more gentle with rentals. Amazon allows some highlighting, but will not accept books that are heavily marked. If you tend to write all over your textbooks, maybe renting is not for you. Tip: you can always use sticky notes like I do, just make sure to remove them all before returning the rental. Also, if you are irresponsible with deadlines, you might get charged for not returning textbooks in time.
If you don’t want to rent, look into used books. My favorite website for used books is thriftbooks.com which is a recent find for me. As a history education major I usually have to buy 20-30 novels per semester. At thriftbooks I can usually get them for about $3 each with free US shipping over $10. They cater more to novels than textbooks, but I have also found some textbooks there as well. Used books don’t always look the best, and they might be older versions, but it’s totally worth the money you save. PS, if you use the link above, you get 15% off!
Look into alternate versions of books! Online textbooks can be considerably cheaper, but if it’s hard for you to study an online text, it won’t be worth the money you save. Kindle books (especially if you have to read classics) will sometimes by cheap or even free, so keep that in mind as well. You don’t have to have a kindle to use them, just download the kindle app. These are both options that might lower your overall cost. One thing to consider is that online versions occasionally have different page numbers, so that might cause some difficulties when trying to finish assigned readings.
Sometimes, you will have to cave and buy a book from the store. If you have any classes that have “special university editions” those books are only sold new at your bookstore. If you have a class that requires an online access code, you will have to buy that new as well. Despite these exceptions, most of the time you will be able to find some type of deal online. It will be worth the effort when you hear your classmates complain about how expensive their textbooks were!
How do you find cheap books? Any sites you love that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments and share with your friends!