Tips for Saving Money on Textbooks

When you head off to college, you expect to make new friends and have new experiences. Unfortunately, not all new experiences are fun — like paying $300 for a book on biology. Worse yet, with a full load of courses, textbook costs can pile up fast. If you’re looking to spend less and still get a great education, consider these tips for saving money on textbooks.

Shop off campus

On-campus college bookstores charge you a premium in exchange for one-stop shopping. You can find better deals when you shop at reputable online retailers, like Amazon, or at off-campus college bookstores. When shopping online, use the textbook’s ISBN code to ensure you’re getting the exact book you need, down to the right edition and language. There’s one exception to this rule — some classes may require campus-bookstore-exclusive materials, like access codes or packets, which are bundled with a brand-new textbook. However, in all other cases, you’ll save a bundle by shopping elsewhere, renting or buying used books.

See what’s required

Check your syllabus to see which books are required and which are optional. Some texts, including classic novels, plays and philosophical texts, are in the public domain. That means you can find them for free at places like Project Gutenberg, or for cheap at your e-book shop of choice. For even more savings, consider buying an older edition of the textbook — just ask your professor first.

Buy used

With a used book, you don’t have to worry about late fees. According to Trent Hamm at, you can save up to 60 percent by purchasing used textbooks instead of their brand-new equivalents. Better yet, when the semester is over, you can re-sell them online or at the campus bookstore. However, stores won’t buy damaged goods. To maintain a book’s value, avoid getting it wet, wrinkling and dog-earing the pages, highlighting it excessively and writing too much in the margins.

Rent your books

While it’s more expensive to buy textbooks at your on-campus bookstore, it’s a great resource for renting books at a significantly reduced price. However, be sure to abide by the terms of the rental. This involves returning the book on time and taking good care of it. Incurring late fees or paying to replace a damaged book will negate your savings.

Go digital

If you have an e-reader, tablet or laptop, you can save a bundle by purchasing a digital textbook. Some digital textbooks offer rentals, which saves you money and the hassle of returning the book on time. As an added bonus, e-books are easy to navigate — especially if your class involves jumping around by page number.

Visit the library

University libraries keep several copies of common textbooks on hand, free for you to borrow. Since you’ll be competing against your fellow students for a copy, consider checking the book out before the semester begins. Be sure to avoid marking or defacing library copies in any way. Since some libraries only allow you to borrow textbooks for a few hours at a time, be prepared to take copious notes.

Share with friends

If you have roommates or close friends on campus, see if you can split the cost on a textbook and share it. You’ll have to coordinate your schedule so you can use the textbook at different times, or simply study together. Also consider using social media to buy books directly from your friends.

These are a few strategies to help you save your hard-earned money on textbooks. Although some of these tips can take a little effort, why pay more for a book you’ll only need for one semester?

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