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5 Easy Tips to Get College Textbooks for Less

Updated on May 15, 2012
Used college textbooks offer significant savings over buying new
Used college textbooks offer significant savings over buying new | Source

Reduce the cost of college: save on college textbooks

If you have ever attended college, or have a child that has attended college, you know that the price of textbooks can be a fair chunk of change. However, this is often an overlooked expense when budgeting for college. Traditionally, students buy the textbook new or used at the college bookstore and then sell it back to the college bookstore at the end of the semester for considerably less. But with some careful planning, you can get your college textbooks cheaper and maybe even free!

Here are five easy ways to get textbooks for less ...

1. Share textbooks with a friend

This method works really well if you are going off to college with a friend, and works particularly well for general education classes that everyone is required to take. Say for example you and your friend both sign up to take Fundamentals of Speech, a general education course required at most colleges - just buy one textbook and share it. Or better yet, take the class alternating semesters and swap it. No matter where you get the book this textbook exchange or sharing method will reduce the cost by 50%.

College textbooks for less

By David G. Myers 9th Edition

2. Purchase an online textbook

Often called an e-book or e-textbook, these online textbooks are sold by publishers for considerably less (50-60%) than their printed counterpart. This semester my daughter is taking an Intro. to Psychology class at our local community college. She is required to purchase access to PsychPortal for Psychology, Ninth Edition by David G. Myers. This portal includes an e-book which is the full textbook online and costs $73.35, more than 50% less than the price of a new book ($148) , and about 35% less than a used copy of the text, both at the college bookstore.

So, if you're comfortable reading your chapters online, E-books are an excellent way to reduce the cost of college textbooks and they can be used for traditional in-the-classroom courses, as well.

3. Buy and Sell college textbooks from Amazon Textbooks

  • Buy from Amazon Textbooks: To continue our example with Psychology, The Ninth Edition by David G. Myers, today it is selling on starting at $80 used plus shipping. Amazon allows individuals to sell their books through their website so you often have many sellers to choose from. Today the lowest price on for a new book is $89 and this includes free shipping from Amazon.
  • Sell to Amazon Textbooks: Through Amazon there are two ways to sell your book. First you can sell it as an individual seller and set the price yourself. In theory you can sell it back for what you paid for it originally or more, thereby making your overall cost for the textbook FREE! A second way to possibly sell your book is to actually trade it to Amazon - if they want it. Today, Amazon is offering to give a $63.35 Amazon gift card in exchange for my copy of Myer's Psychology textbook. The nice thing about this is that it is a guaranteed sale, and you can use the gift card to purchase additional textbooks that you need for the next semester.

These textbooks are on their way to Amazon to be traded-in, in return for an Amazon gift card.
These textbooks are on their way to Amazon to be traded-in, in return for an Amazon gift card. | Source

4. Rent textbooks from the college bookstore

Many colleges are now beginning to rent textbooks. The cost of renting a textbook is almost always less than buying it new or used from the bookstore. The disadvantage is that you cannot sell it back to the bookstore; you have to return it. The advantage is that you don't have to worry about whether or not the bookstore will buy back your textbook at the end of the semester, which may happen if the professor uses a different or new version textbook for the next semester.

Some colleges even offer a rental rate per credit hour. This can potentially save you hundreds of dollars on textbook fees. The state university where my son will be attending this fall rents textbooks for $9.95 per credit hour - which translates to only $149.25 for his upcoming 15-hour semester, without the hassle of selling-back. This is an astounding savings. If you're still in the college-planning stage, be sure to take textbook rental programs into account when comparing the cost of different colleges.

5. Determine if you even need a textbook.

You read that right - you may not even really need a textbook for a particular class. One of the best ways to determine this is from other students who have had the exact same class with the exact same professor.

A good place to get this "word-of-mouth" advice is from Time-and-time again I have read where previous students have said, "Don't even bother getting the book." If this is the case for a class you are taking, and you choose to not actually buy or rent the book, then you may be able to check-it-out of the college library on occassion if you feel you need it. Word of caution: anyone can write what they please on ratemyprofessor, so look for patterns, not what just maybe one disgruntled student decided to write.

Purchase price of the college textbook Psychology Ninth Edition by David G. Myers

New Textbook
Used Textbook
CLC (local community college)
N/A for rent
$73.35 w/ PsychPortal
from $89 w/ free shipping
from $80 + shipping
EIU (Eastern Illinois University)
$9.95 per credit hour

The price of a textbook can vary widely depending on where you get it.If you buy a book be sure to sell it back or swap with a friend before selling it.

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