How can I Save Money on College Textbooks?

L.R. Ferguson

Purchasing college textbooks can be a source of frustration and stress for many students because of the hefty price of university-level material. Although one book alone might not be particularly expensive, buying several books for different classes can be financially draining to students. In spite of this difficulty, there are several ways a student can save money on college textbooks. Shopping smart, purchasing used books, renting or borrowing reading material or sharing a book with a classmate are all ways that students can decrease the amount of money they spend on textbooks.

Purchasing textbooks for college courses can be expensive.
Purchasing textbooks for college courses can be expensive.

Learning how to shop smart and effectively is essential for a student to begin saving money on college textbooks. For instance, students can look on the Internet and in bookstores for coupons or discounts that can be used on books prior to the start of the term, because some sellers have deals specifically targeted toward students. Additionally, it is advisable that a student waits until after he or she has attended the first class to buy a book for a course. Though buying textbooks in advance might be tempting, it can actually be a disservice to a student if he or she chooses to drop the course, or if the professor announces a change in books during the first class period.

Coupons may help students save money on college textbooks.
Coupons may help students save money on college textbooks.

Another way for students to save money on college textbooks is to buy used books whenever possible. Secondhand textbooks are a popular choice among many students, and most campus bookstores will carry several copies of used books. Used books also can be purchased online. Although used textbooks are often battered and contain notes and markings made by previous owners, they are generally in good enough condition for continued use, and they cost considerably less than new books.

Furthermore, students can save money on textbooks by renting or borrowing. Several campus bookstores also have affordable and discounted renting options if a student chooses not to purchase a book. A person can also rent books online at specialty websites or can purchase a digital copy of the book that is available only for the duration of a term. Another option is to borrow books from a campus or local library, which allows the student the option of foregoing the purchase of a book altogether. College libraries will often keep more than one copy of textbooks that are frequently used for common courses.

Finally, sharing a book among classmates is another excellent way to save money on college textbooks, and it can be done in a number of ways. For instance, a small group of students can agree to split the cost of a book and can then rotate it among the group. Another method would be for one person to buy the book and then to allow classmates to borrow the book for a lending fee determined at his or her discretion.

Students can save money on college textbooks by buying used whenever possible.
Students can save money on college textbooks by buying used whenever possible.

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Discussion Comments


I have bought and rented my college textbooks online and have saved quite a bit of money by doing this. I also discovered a book store that is very close to my local community college.

The customer service is great and their prices are always cheaper than the college bookstore. They also offer the option to rent if you don't want to buy. I never buy a new book if I can buy a used one or rent one. Most of them are in great shape and look like they have hardly been used.

One advantage to buying a used book, is that you may also be able to get a little bit of money back when the semester is over.


Many places are now offering you the option of renting your college textbooks. The rental price is usually much cheaper than the new price, and if this is a book that you have no interest in keeping can be a good way to go. You also don't have to mess with buybacks at the end of the semester.

When the semester is over, you have a due date when you must have the book returned by, or you will be charged a fee. There is not usually a very big time frame after the semester to return your rentals, so you need to keep a close watch on your rental date.


The price of college textbooks is huge. Every semester I get so frustrated when I have to pay for books and try to find them as reasonably as I can.

As soon as I know my class schedule I will go online to look for used college textbooks. My favorite sites are Amazon and Chegg. You can search for your book by title, author or ISBN number. If you use the ISBN number you know you are getting the correct edition of the book.

I have been able to save a lot of money by doing this over buying them new from the bookstore. Many times, they will also buy them back when you are finished. This does not always happen, and the buyback amount is substantially lower than what you paid for it, but is much better than nothing.

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