How to Save Money on Textbooks

The average student spends more than $1,000 a year on books, according to the College Board1.  But why would you spend close to $1,200 on new textbooks from the bookstore when you could get the same textbooks for less than half the price delivered to your mailbox? Students who don’t like flushing their (or their parents’) money down the toilet have a number of different options.

  • Comparison Shop If you want to buy your books, the best thing you can do is comparison shop. Websites like BigWords and Cheapest Textbooks allow you to enter the ISBN of the book in question and it generates a list of prices (sorted by condition) from all major used textbook dealers and marketplaces. Often students can find brand new, never used books for half the price of those at the book store. If you’re buying from a marketplace like or Amazon Marketplace, be sure to check out all sellers’ history. Your best bet is to buy from someone who has sold at least 10 items and who has 100% positive feedback. If the seller doesn’t have 100% positive feedback, look at the negative reviews and then make a decision.
  • Look for International Editions International editions of textbooks can cost 1/3rd of the prices of American books despite having literally identical content. Textbooks R Us sells students international versions of textbooks at a relatively low cost.
  • Rent Textbook rentals are growing across college campuses. Even major companies like Amazon have jumped on board. Renting can save you up to 70% of typical book prices. But bear in mind that many rental policies are stringent and don’t allow you the flexibility to highlight and annotate.
  • Re-sell What’s the point in having $1,000 worth of pricey textbooks sitting in your room that you’re never going to look at again? Invest a few hours at the end of each semester and list your textbooks on Amazon Marketplace or If you keep your books in good condition, you might even be able to make a profit (more realistically you’ll probably earn back about 50% of what you spent).
  • Trade See if anyone on campus is willing to trade textbooks class for class or book for book. Be sure to make sure the values are comparable so nobody on either end is getting ripped off in the process.
  • Use Coupons and Promotional Codes A simple Google search of “textbook promotional code” can yield hundreds of cost-saving results. Many major websites including Amazon will offer big discounts like free shipping or 10% off.
  • Use Old Editions Often a professor will ask that you purchase the newest edition of the textbook. Oftentimes, though, it can be near impossible to find a discounted used version because of its novelty. However, the changes many books make from edition to edition are minor. Save some money and buy the older edition, but remember that page numbers may not match up so you may have to do some extra hunting while you’re reading.
  • Use the Library Many college campuses have course textbooks available in the library—sometimes for checkout and other times as reference books. This is a free (well, included) way to complete your course reading without spending an extra penny. The downside is that the book may be in use at convenient times and you can’t highlight and annotate.

Got any more money-saving tips? Email Hope at or use the comment box below.