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How to Get Cheap (or Free!) Textbooks -College Tips from a College Student

Updated on February 3, 2014

Textbooks can cost on average anywhere from $600-$1200 for students every semester. On top of tuition costs, textbooks can cost more than is covered by scholarships or college funds. Every College student has their secrets for saving on text books, but many first time students spend too much on books, and even experienced students can still spend more than they need to. Here is a collection of tips for saving on Textbooks (or even getting them free!) from 4 years of Textbook experiences!

4 ways to get Cheaper Textbooks

1. Rent: Sites like have begun renting textbooks as a way to help students save money. You can also rent textbooks from some University bookstores. Ask before you buy! Renting is not highly advertised in most bookstores, so you have to search for those books.

2. Find someone who previously took the class: See if any friends took the class last semester. If they did, see if they'll lend you the books for free. If not, offer to pay them for the books; typically a student selling back books to a store can only expect pocket change ($5-$30) for a textbook, so offer from $15-$40 for the book. That is still anywhere from 60-90% savings off traditional textbook costs for you, and can give your friend more back than the traditional college bookstore.

3. Share Textbooks with friends: Find a group of friends who are planning to take the same class, or who are in the same major. Buy the textbooks together, and take turns using the books. The only issue with this is scheduling time with the book. Plan at the beginning of the semester when each person will have a chance to use the book. I would recommended only 2-3 co-owners at a time. This way, you can save anywhere from 50%-66% on your textbooks, even off rentals. Make sure you do this with people you trust! If the book is for a demanding or difficult class, this may not be the best option for you as you may need more time with the book than you are able to allocate with multiple owners. Look up the class on to get a feel for the class before you decide on this option.

4. Work for your University Bookstore: If you want a part-time job, and you want cheaper books, work for your University Bookstore. Typically you will get around 10% off any textbook purchase as an employee discount, but some bookstores have added bonuses for student workers that include free Textbook loans. Typically you have to work at the bookstore for a specific period of time before you can get your books for free, but it is well worth it in the end. This is the option I recommend most to students!

Other Options:

- E-Books: I would not recommend this version, as many students can get frustrated with an electronic book. Students get used to highlighting and writing notes in real books, and e-books can't be sold back. But, there can be possible savings anywhere between 20-60% off regular textbooks.

- Buying from or E-bay: The only problem you may encounter with buying from these sites is minimal savings and additional transportation costs. Look for other options first.

Find An Option That Works For You

Many students end up doing a combination of the tips above. Getting your textbooks for free is every students goal, but if you can't do that, then determine the costs for each option and determine the cheapest option/combination of options. I know many students who rent most of their books, but still buy from their University Bookstore because specific books are cheaper or only offered there. Don't assume one option is better than another, and don't assume you can't get your books from other sources than your University Bookstore.


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