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How to Get Cheap Books at College

Updated on September 9, 2012

College may be the most important thing you ever invest your money in. But it's probably also the most costly. With college tuition rising every year and added expenses like lab coats, meals plans, and transportation, students must find ways to save money anywhere they can. College textbook prices can vary greatly. Here's some tips on how to find the absolute cheapest books for your class.

DON'T Buy in Campus Bookstore Unless Absolutely Necessary

Generally campus bookstores are an expensive option. Only use this as a backup plan. Campuses know that it's more convenient to get all your books in one area, so they feel allowed to charge higher prices. I would only recommend buying books that you have slim chance of finding elsewhere, like lab manuals.

Buy Online

Amazon and Ebay typically have very cheap textbooks, both new and used. This is the first place to check for textbooks to get an estimate of book prices. You can also check the book publishers direct website.


Renting textbooks is a great option because most people don't use their books until after their semester class is done. With websites like Chegg, you can rent the textbook for a fraction of the cost and then return it at the end of the semester in a prepaid box. It is a really simple and smart idea.

Buy the Ebook

If you consider yourself tech-savy (which most college students are), then try out an ebook. They are also cheaper than the original books. Ebooks can be bought and used online, or with a nook or kindle. Sometimes, these books are a much better option than a real book because you can type out notes or virtually write on them or highlight them. Ebooks can also be rent.

Buy an Older Edition

This is my favorite way to save money. Usually older editions of the same book differ very little. Sometimes the only change is the pictures inside or the cover. Yet, older editions of a book can be half the price. Most teachers do not care if you have an older edition as long as you can follow along with the curriculum.

Put Flyers Up Around Campus

If you will be on campus before your classes start and have some time to book search, try putting flyers on bulletin boards asking for certain books. Chances are, some students who have taken the class before haven't sold back their book. Students will be willing to offer a better price than most stores, on average.

Keep in Packaging for a While

Some teachers ask for students to have a certain book for the class and then never ask students to use it. Make sure you absolutely need your book before opening it and flipping through the pages. If after the first week or two of the class pass and you haven't used the book, reevaluate the need for the book. If you think the whole class will be simple without the book, then return it.

Make Sure to Sell Back

If you choose to own a book for the semester, make sure to sell it back to at the end, whether that be to the campus bookstore or online or to a friend. Just don't let the books sit around because every semester they go down in value.


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