Discover ways to cut costs and find cheap college textbooks. You can also recoup money by selling your used textbooks.

How to Save Money on College Textbooks


  • The price of college textbooks adds up quickly, causing students to find ways to save money.
  • Comparing retailers, purchasing used or digital books, and renting textbooks can cut costs.
  • Students can recoup textbook costs by selling their used books at the end of each term.
  • By exploring resale possibilities online and on campus, you can maximize profits.

Although the price of college tuition and fees has steadily risen over the years, college students are actually spending less on college textbooks and materials than they were a decade ago. The increased popularity of e-textbooks and textbook rentals, as well as a healthy secondhand textbook market, has helped create cheaper options for students.

Learn more about how to find cheap college textbooks and how to rent college textbooks to save money. You can also explore ways to sell college textbooks.

How to Find Cheap College Textbooks

Although the average student is spending less on textbooks than they were a decade ago, the typical cost for course materials still amounts to hundreds of dollars each term. These steep prices may leave you looking for less expensive options.

Buying brand new textbooks from your college bookstore may be convenient, but you can pursue alternative routes to save money. Below are a few options that can help you secure books on a budget.

Buy E-Textbooks

Digital textbooks are becoming more common, and they can be a convenient, relatively affordable option for students. Typically, e-textbooks are cheaper than their traditional counterparts, although these savings are not always significant.

E-textbooks can be read on a laptop, tablet, or e-reader. Along with their reduced cost, e-textbooks are more portable. Compare e-textbook prices at popular retailers like Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, and eBooks.com.

Borrow Textbooks From Friends or Classmates

If funds are especially tight, you may be able to survive a semester by borrowing textbooks from friends or splitting the costs and sharing. If you plan ahead, you could enroll in some of the same classes with friends each semester.

Sharing books with friends and classmates can help you save hundreds of dollars on textbook costs. However, you won't have unlimited access to the texts and it might be harder to study at your convenience.

Buy Textbooks for Cheap Online

Purchasing books at the college bookstore is no longer your only option. With online companies like Amazon, CheapTextbooks, and Barnes & Noble, comparing textbook prices is convenient and can save you a lot of money each year. A simple search pulls up many textbook suppliers.

However, this wealth of options could leave you feeling overwhelmed, and you also have to be careful to avoid falling victim to scams. Make sure you review textbook companies before purchasing anything and double-check your book's ISBN.

Rent Textbooks

Many online textbook companies and campus bookstores now offer the option to rent instead of purchasing books. With some companies claiming up to 90% savings on certain books, renting can be an extremely affordable option.

If you rent, it's important to read your rental agreement carefully and take good inventory of any damage to your borrowed textbooks. Some businesses allow renters to highlight and make marks in books, although some may charge you for damages. You should consider whether or not the textbook is necessary for future courses or your career path when choosing to rent instead of purchasing.

Take Advantage of the Campus Library

A completely free option for finding textbooks is to check with your campus library. Many campus libraries own a few copies of popular textbooks that patrons may check out or use in the library.

Although this option is free, it can be inconvenient. Some libraries may allow you to reserve books for specific days and times. Due to the limited number of texts, however, you're not always guaranteed a slot. And because you don't have your own copy, you may not be able to look up last-minute information while studying the night before a test.

How to Sell Used College Textbooks

At the end of a term, you may be staring at your pile of textbooks wondering what to do with them. Books are bulky, are difficult to transport, and may not have much future value depending on what they cover. As a result, selling used college textbooks is a popular decision for many students.

There are several options you can explore if you're interested in selling your old textbooks. If you find buyers for your books, you can significantly lower the overall annual cost of your textbooks.

  • Sell Your Textbooks to the Campus Bookstore

    At the end of each term, many campus bookstores host buyback events where they pay you for any textbooks that will be used again the next term. This is a convenient option that usually puts money in your pocket immediately.

    While this may be the quickest and most convenient option, selling books to the campus bookstore doesn't tend to yield the most money. Bookstores know that many students are simply looking to get rid of their books, so the prices they offer aren't usually the most competitive.

  • Sell Your Textbooks Independently Online

    If you're not impressed with the offer made by your campus bookstore, you could try selling your textbooks online independently. Websites like Amazon and eBay allow you to sell your books to other customers. You may also find a buyer for texts that your campus bookstore didn't want to buy back.

    This process could earn you more money than selling through a third party, but selling your textbooks online can be inconvenient, especially if you need to ship your books and aren't near a post office.

  • Sell Your Textbooks to Other Students

    You can cut out the middleman by selling your textbooks directly to other students. Although this may not be a quick or convenient option, selling directly to classmates could lead to the highest resale value.

    Selling your used textbooks to other students on campus only works if those texts will be used again in subsequent terms, which can be tricky to know ahead of time. Finding buyers can also be difficult unless you can easily advertise, either on social media, through word of mouth, or on a message board.

  • Sell Your Textbooks to Popular Online Providers

    Many of the popular sites that sell used textbooks will also purchase your used books. Like your campus bookstore, websites like Amazon, Cash4Books, and Textbooks.com buy gently used books. Sites may offer free shipping labels or lock in purchasing rates.

    Selling your textbooks to popular online companies can be a good option for getting decent buyback prices. However, because you have to package and ship the books, selling online can be inconvenient if you need to secure money quickly.

Related Pages


Feature Image: Giselleflissak / E+ / Getty Images