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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

Psychology, 9th Edition
Psychology, 9th Edition

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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    • Nalini Marquez profile image

      Nalini Marquez 

      6 years ago

      I agree. In the past I have been able to do more with their trade-in program but this year I only had one textbook I was able to trade in. It helps to do the trade-in as soon as you don't need/want the textbook because as time passes the value of the book goes down. Which I was not too happy about when I found all these forgotten textbooks and tried to trade them in!

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Nalini - I have just printed my Amazon label to trade-in five textbooks. In return I will get an Amazon gift card for the listed trade-in value. Amazon sure makes buying,selling and trading textbooks easy to do.

    • Nalini Marquez profile image

      Nalini Marquez 

      6 years ago

      Nice article about saving money on college books! I have tried both buying textbooks from Amazon and selling them back and have had positive experiences with both. It helps that they provide the free shipping label too.

      I am new to HubPages and this is a somewhat unrelated question, but how did you insert or place in the dividing lines between numbered points/paragraphs? I was looking for a way to separate my paragraphs and yours is the first Hub that I see that has something like that. Any help would be appreciated; thank you.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      That's great Millionaire Tips. My son's college actually charges a very, very low rate for books - I am pretty sure it is $10 per credit hour! They say that they are one of the very few colleges in the country that do this.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I was looking forward to comparing prices and getting books at a discount, but my daughter's school gave her a stipend for books, which she had to buy at the school bookstore. That made it very easy for her. At the end of the year, she bought a sweatshirt with her excess money, and sold the books back.

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      I could not agree with your comments more. I learned my lesson with a Sociology textbook I had to get for a class my daughter took at our community college. The class was online and the required materials were the textbook and an access code for some of the publisher's online extras. We got everything last minute and the only place I could find it was at the college bookstore new for a mere $160. Talk about sticker shock! Then, the real kicker was that at the end of the semester they wouldn't even buy it back - I guess because the access code cannot be used again. I found that ridiculous because future students should be able to buy the book used because you can purchase the access code directly from the publisher. As it turned out, I knew someone taking the exact same course the following semester and just let him borrow the book and to my surprise he didn't even have to purchase the access code. The code must last for a year or something. So it was all free for him. I just sold the book to Amazon for $51. This is a case of "live and learn" for me:)

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      7 years ago from Midwest

      All great advice. I've been back in school again for the past couple of years and talk about your sticker shock lol. I did learn very quickly to buy online over the book store or rent when I can.

      I know for last term I had an economics class and shared a book because good grief a single "used" book was over 120 dollars - and the kicker was it wasn't even bound lol it was 3 hole punched and you had to put it in a binder yourself. College textbooks are highway robbery and a scam in my opinion.

      One cool thing I can say is software - you do get a HUGE discount on a lot of software as a student. The Adobe Professional Suite I use is 1800 to purchase normally as a student was 420... so that was nice, but the rest of it is ridiculous!

      Thanks for helping students save their shirts with this hub! up and useful :)

    • ktrapp profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for your comment. One of the textbooks both my kids are using at the moment, The Art of Public Speaking, is available on Kindle. But it costs more than the books which you can then sell. Hopefully the price of those ebooks comes down in time.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image


      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      College textbooks are so expensive. I hope in the future more of them will become available on e-readers. In the meantime, finding used books when possible, and reselling them later, are two of the best ways to save money on college textbooks!


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