Three Strategies to Save Money on Textbooks

One of the toughest realities of attending college is that you have to buy textbooks. Textbooks can be expensive, so it makes sense to want to save money on them — especially since there are plenty of textbooks that you never use again after the class is over.

While you probably can’t avoid the cost of textbooks altogether, there are some strategies you can employ to save money on textbooks:

1. Buy Used

This is the time-tested strategy to save money on textbooks. You can buy used books at your campus bookstore, but even then you might pay more than you need to. It’s also possible to look online for used textbooks. Sites like,, and even eBay offer used textbooks.

You can also check online boards put up by students on your campus to connect with students selling books. You can also check online boards on your campus. Many dorms, apartment buildings, and department bulletin boards allow you to buy used books for cheap from students who recently finished the course.

2. Rent Your Textbooks

In many cases, it’s even cheaper to rent textbooks than it is to buy them used. The downside to renting is that you can’t sell back your book. But there are definitely times that renting can still be better than buying used. If you buy a used textbook for $100, and sell it for $50, you are still out $50, whereas, if you rent a textbook for $35 for the semester, you are ahead of the game.

There are a number of places to rent textbooks, including Amazon,, and Barnes & Noble. It’s even possible, depending on what’s available, to rent electronic versions of textbooks. My husband rented a textbook, and had sent to his iPad. It worked for the semester, and then was no longer accessible after that. It’s one to make things instant and easy.

Another version of textbook rental is to just borrow it from the library. In many cases, a limited number of textbooks are available for checkout at the university library. However, it means you might have to jockey for position to get access to the books.

3. Ask About Electronic Materials

Now that my husband is a professor, he makes it a point to look for inexpensive options for his students. Rather than requiring that students buy an entire book for a chapter or two of readings, he’ll have PDFs made and then make them electronically available.

Additionally, when possible, he tries to choose textbooks that are available in less expensive electronic format. Unfortunately, the realities of the textbook publishing industry often get in the way. My husband points out that publishers like to be able to charge for new additions, and justify it with printing costs. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Electronic versions would be easier to update. Plus, they could be more cost-efficient. Overall, it could even be more profitable. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is slow to change.

However, there is a chance that you can help change the situation by asking about electronic materials. If enough students and professors look for ways to change the way textbooks are delivered, things could change.

What do you think? How do you save money on textbooks?

One Response to Three Strategies to Save Money on Textbooks

  1. I lucked out that I lived fairly close to the college I attended and I also had a neighbor who worked in the book store and I asked her each year when the used books would come out. Since I lived close to college I could get down there and get my pick of used books before the other students came back to campus. It’s amazing how expensive they are even for used stuff.

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