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Where Can You Get Cheap Textbooks for College?

Updated on May 22, 2016

Get Books Cheap...Spend Less Time Shopping

Tuition at colleges and universities across the country are going up. The economy is down and many state and federal grants are disappearing. Living expenses continue to rise...and then there's hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks you are required to purchase...

Except...there is a cheaper way out when it comes to textbooks. I have found, through the tips I will share below, that you can find brand new textbooks for as much as 80% off the regular bookstore price. It sounds too good to be true, but please take a moment to read on and maybe give it a try. It if works consider sending this article on to a friend who could use a little cheap textbook advise this semester.

Textbooks at Reasonable Prices

Getting textbooks at reasonable prices is not hard if you know how to search for them.
Getting textbooks at reasonable prices is not hard if you know how to search for them.

How it Works

To begin. Make a list of all the books you will need for the upcoming semester. Be sure to include the following information on the list:

-Complete Title
-ISBN number
-Author(s)/editor(s) full names
-CD or DVD included (yes or no)
-Edition

Once you have collected all the above information go to www.collegeswapshop.com. This site helps you to compare prices between almost every seller of textbooks online. I find this very useful because instead of having to visit ten or fifteen different sites for each book, one site does it all. On the main page of the collegeswapshop.com, look for a box titled "buy textbooks". Enter the ISBN number for the book you are searching and hit enter. Assuming that you have the right ISBN and that particular book is being sold online (99% chance it is), a list of anywhere from five to twenty different online stores will appear with price of the book and cost of shipping for each retailer.

From the list provided by collegeswapshop.com you can click on anyone of the listed retailers for more details. From those individual websites you will have the opportunity to immediately place orders for the textbook you are looking for. In my experience, I have found that most books sell for at least 50% the retail bookstore price and some for as much as 80% off.

Many of the retailers listed are actually just marketplaces where third party individuals and businesses sell books. Don't let this scare you though because most retailers offer a guarantee that you will receive the product you ordered or your money back. Furthermore, most marketplaces use a rating system much like eBay in which customers rate the individuals and businesses they buy items from. In an effort to get quality ratings most sellers provide honest descriptions of their books and quality customer service. If the retailer you choose (click the hyperlinked name) from the choices provided by collegeswapshop.com is one of these sellers, then you will have the option to choose from a variety of third party sellers.

Each seller will give the price, quality, and description of the book. Often I have found that brand new books sell for nearly the same price as used books so I would recommend going with a brand new book. Be sure to cross reference the book details with information collected on your list. Be sure you are selecting a book in the right edition and note whether or not the seller includes a CD with the book (if applicable).

Finally, many of the books sold on these sites are International versions. With the exception of the covers, there is usually no difference between an international textbook and a regular US edition and if there is a difference it is very minor; page numbers are almost always identical. Often a statement like "not to be sold in the US" will appear on the front or back of the book. However, a New York Times article states "a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that federal copyright law does not protect American manufacturers from having the products they arranged to sell overseas at a discount shipped back for sale in the United States.” To read more about International textbooks read the entire article here.

To buy the books simply follow the prompts provided by the retailer. You will probably have a chance to choose between several different shipping options and your selection will depend on the importance of getting your book quickly. All credit card information stays with the retailer and is not seen by the third party sellers.

Some of the cheapest retailers I have found include:

Textbook Rush
Abebooks
Alibris

While there is a very slim chance that things may not work out with your order, it is important to remember that with the amount you are saving you could probably buy that same book online several times for the cost of buying it in the bookstore. In my entire experience with this method of textbook shopping I have been very satisfied and have had no reason to shop in bookstores anymore. If you are a little unsure of this textbook idea, maybe start by just ordering one or two of your books online and if you are satisfied you can buy more in future semesters.

Hopefully this helps. From a financial perspective, getting through college is not easy and it helps to know there are small things you can do to save up and take on less debt.

Comments

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    • Shiley profile image

      Karen Shiley 

      4 years ago from Washington

      I am so excited to give this a try. My daughter is beginning her first year of college so saving money on text books would be great!

    • Jason Matthews profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Matthews 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Yes, most new textbooks (and you have to buy new ones a lot of the time because textbook companies are constantly revising their books) sell for about $150-$200 in a college bookstore. Buying used books at the bookstore (if they have them) is a little better, but you will usually only save $25-30. Often you can get that same book, also brand new, for about $30-$50 using the method I shared above. That one site: collegeswapshop.com is really the place to go because it will show you every company that is selling the book you are looking for and give you all the price comparisons.

      In regards to the number of students ordering online: I believe that number is certainly increasing. Obviously just walking into the college bookstore and picking up the books right there is more convenient than ordering online, but I think more and more students are realizing they are really getting ripped off by the textbook companies and looking for a cheaper way out. I would say that at my school, roughly 50% of students are now getting their books on their own; either online or used from other students who have the book.

    • Don Simkovich profile image

      Don Simkovich 

      8 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      Wow, so the same book in the bookstore can cost several times more than online? So how many students order online versus through the bookstore?

    • Jason Matthews profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Matthews 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      If students only realized how much they are wasting paying around $150 for a book that's half an inch thick (as some of them are). Thanks for your comment!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 

      8 years ago

      Very useful hub and given how tight it can be being a student very important. I am remember those days - took a big chunk out of waht money I had back then.

    • Jason Matthews profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Matthews 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, I do try my best to be informative!

    • profile image

      Jason Matthews 

      8 years ago

      There must be something about having the name Jason Matthews that makes us want to share information with others. I enjoyed reading this and almost felt like I could have written it. Nice work, Mr. Matthews. Best wishes.

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