28 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College Textbooks

Cut Textbook Costs With These Tips, Tricks & Resources

Despite the onward march of technology, one thing about the college experience hasn’t changed – you still need books. Textbooks have never been cheap, but today’s students have more opportunities to cut costs, expand their selection and save money than students from previous generations could have even imagined. This guide can help students keep more of their precious (and often limited) money in their pockets and out of the campus bookstore’s cash register.

11 Places to Find Cheap College Textbooks Online

There was a time when the college bookstore had the market cornered on the textbooks professors required their students to read. Those days are gone, and that’s a bonus for your wallet. Here are a few reliable resources to get you started in your search.


  • ABEBOOKS

    ABEBOOKS

    Save between 50 and 90 percent on textbooks, many of which come with free shipping. You can search up to 10 titles at the same time.


  • ALIBRIS

    ALIBRIS

    Alibris offers millions of used textbooks for up to 80 percent off, and the site sells new textbooks as well. If you sign up for emails and alerts, you’ll get a $5 coupon.


  • AMAZON TEXTBOOK STORE

    AMAZON TEXTBOOK STORE

    Amazon started as an online bookstore, and its massive inventory of textbooks can help students save up to 90 percent on both used and rented textbooks as well as 49 percent on new textbooks. Prime Student members get free two-day shipping.


  • BARNES & NOBLE TEXTBOOKS

    BARNES & NOBLE TEXTBOOKS

    Save 70 percent on both new and used books and up to 80 percent on rentals, with free return shipping. Use the code “STUDIOUS” to get $10 off every $100 you spend.


  • CAMPUSBOOKRENTALS

    CAMPUSBOOKRENTALS

    CampusBookRentals claims to have saved users nearly $114 million combined. You can get in on the action by renting instead of buying.


  • CHEGG

    CHEGG

    Save as much as 90 percent on Chegg, which also offers free shipping on orders over $50. It’s also a source for connecting with tutors, internships and volunteering opportunities.


  • EBAY TEXTBOOKS

    EBAY TEXTBOOKS

    Online marketplace eBay maintains a section dedicated entirely to textbooks. You can buy them outright or try to save more by bidding in an online auction.


  • ECAMPUS

    ECAMPUS

    eCampus promises students can save as much as 90 percent on new, used and eTextbooks. The site also rewards loyalty – enroll for free, earn points as you buy and save as much as $20.


  • TEXTBOOKS.COM

    TEXTBOOKS.COM

    You can save up to 90 percent by shopping at Textbooks.com, which boasts more than 10 million books in stock. Most orders of $25 or more come with free shipping.


  • TEXTBOOKRUSH

    TEXTBOOKRUSH

    TextbookRush lets you rent textbooks for up to 90 percent off with free shipping on orders over $35. If you need to sell some used books that are collecting dust, TextbookRush vows to “pay top dollar on millions of titles.”


  • VALORE BOOKS

    VALORE BOOKS

    Valore offers savings of up to 90 percent as well as a 30-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.


6 Time- & Money-Saving Price-Comparison Tools

In the digital age, students have more options to save money on textbooks than ever before. But instead of helping, the sheer volume of choices can now make the process feel overwhelming and confusing. Many online sellers make similar claims about the potential to save money on textbooks and shipping while offering other discounts and coupons. Instead of dredging through each site individually, consider using a price-comparison tool, which can help you determine which site offers the best price on what you need with just a few clicks.


  • The Book Rocket

    The Book Rocket

    Search at least a dozen sites at once to find the best deals in less time. The Book Rocket sums up its site as being “like Kayak, but for books.”


  • BooksPrice

    BooksPrice

    This free price-comparison tool provides an objective comparison of prices across the book-selling universe. It doesn’t offer a lot of the extras you’ll find with similar tools, but that can actually be a benefit – the site is incredibly basic and simple to use.


  • Big Words

    Big Words

    Big Words also lets you browse all the top online textbook stores at the same time. The site promises to help users find what they need for up to 90 percent lower than Amazon’s suggested list price


  • SlugBooks

    SlugBooks

    If you’re shopping for a large batch of books, SlugBooks just might be the tool for you. It allows users to browse multiple titles across all the top sellers at the same time.


  • StudentRate

    StudentRate

    Like most price-comparison tools, StudentRate lets you shop across all sellers at once, but it stands out by simultaneously searching for cash-back offers and promo codes as well.


  • TextSurf

    TextSurf

    TextSurf lets you shop around multiple sites at the same time under one roof like other comparison tools, but it also lets you share your results with friends and other students.


Cut Out the Middleman With Textbook Apps

The emergence of online discount sellers went a long way in reducing the price pain long associated with traditionally expensive textbooks. Price-comparison tools then simplified the process by letting students browse multiple sellers at the same time. Now, a new generation of apps are making the process even more direct, less time consuming and cheaper.

FreeTextbooks

Unlike direct sellers that make a profit by selling and renting books below market prices, FreeTextbooks is a peer-driven app. The app connects students who need something with students who have it, whether that something is tutoring advice, sports gear or textbooks. It’s all backed up by a delivery service that hustles those items from one campus to the next. They make 200,000 of these deliveries every year, with textbook delivery in as little as one hour.

Student2Student

Another peer-based app, Student2Student, lets students make a few bucks by selling their old textbooks to students who can save a bundle by buying them cheap from fellow students. In many cases, the app can pair buyers with sellers right on their campus. You’ll get better discounts as multiple peer sellers compete for the sale.

Seller Apps

Many online textbook sellers have bundled their services into apps that you can download for quick access. In many cases, the apps offer deals and services not listed on the seller’s main page. For example, the Barnes & Noble My College Bookstore app offers exclusive discounts and coupons as well as services like rental due date reminders. The TextbookRush app lets you buy and sell on the go, offering prices that are guaranteed for seven days. If you’re selling a book and you choose store credit for payment, you’ll get 5 percent cash back. The Chegg Study app expands the Chegg bookstore to offer help with studying, midterms, homework and papers.

More Tips & Tricks for Saving on Textbooks

Now that you know where to look, what to download and how to shop online for the best textbook bargains, it’s time to work on some strategies for maximizing your savings no matter where you choose to buy or rent your books.

  • Wait awhile: Resist the urge to buy your books as soon as you receive your syllabus. On the first day of class, you’re likely to get a much better idea of just how necessary a “required” book actually is. You might also decide after the first class that you don’t like the course or the professor and opt to drop the class. If that’s the case, you don’t want to be stuck with a shiny new textbook that you’re then forced to sell used at a loss.
  • Sell early: When the semester comes to a close, both campus bookstores and online sellers alike are faced with a crush of students looking to exchange used books for cash. If you’ve wrapped up your work early, beat the crowds and boost your chance of getting top dollar by selling before the masses finish their finals.
  • Invest in an eReader: eReaders have come way down in price – less than $100 in many cases – and when it comes to textbooks, these devices can quickly pay for themselves. Digital downloads of your textbooks are likely to be significantly less expensive than the real thing.
  • The library is your friend: It’s likely that your campus library has at least one copy of your required textbooks. If a certain book is only required for a small part of your studies, take advantage of the free copy in the library.
  • Buddy up: If you and a friend – or an acquaintance or even the student next to you in class – split the cost of one book and share it equitably, you can save exactly 50 percent no matter where or how you shop.
  • Buy past editions: The latest edition of any book is almost always more expensive than previous editions. While past editions are sometimes genuinely outdated, updated editions often contain only modest updates that are insignificant and barely noticeable to the layperson. The only thing strikingly different, in some cases, is the price tag.
  • Take advantage of tax breaks: According to the IRS, students are eligible for annual credits up to $2,500 for qualified education expenses under the American opportunity tax credit. In most cases, textbooks meet the requirements.
  • Look into open-source options: According to Debt.org, open-source libraries offer textbooks that are copyright free and available for download online. They’re peer reviewed and written by professionals. Although not all professors opt into these libraries, they’re definitely worth a look. Check out sites like College Open TextbooksOpen Textbook LibraryOpen Access Textbooks, and OpenStax.

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