Updated: Apr 13, 2023

How to Find Cheap College Textbooks

Sadly the summer is winding down, which means college kids everywhere need to say goodbye to the suntans and parties and say hello to study groups and, well, parties. One of the worst and most expe...
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Sadly the summer is winding down, which means college kids everywhere need to say goodbye to the suntans and parties and say hello to study groups and, well, parties. One of the worst and most expensive parts of heading back to school after the summer is the dreaded task of buying books. The average cost a student pays at a four-year public college for textbooks is $1,122, according to the College Board. Here are a few ways to save when heading back to school this year:

Wait a Week

Many college students are anxious prior to the first day of classes and want to be as prepared as possible, but when it comes to buying books it's best to wait. Many professors may change their syllabus or not even require some of the books listed on the syllabus. After you have attended your classes once or twice it is easier to judge which books are necessary. If you must buy the book from the traditional campus bookstore, look for a used copy — it could save you 50% or more.


Many college kids hold onto their books to sell to friends or people who haven't yet taken the class in question. It is best to ask around as soon as you get your class schedule: Even if your friends didn't take that class they might know someone who did. Exchanging books is a better deal for everyone involved because the seller will get more than he or she would have through textbook buyback programs and the buyer pays less then he or she would have at the bookstore. If you are a little shy, it's okay. Just turn to social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter and set your status to highlight the books you are looking for.

Go Online

There are many websites online that offer cheap books. A few good ones:

  • Half.com comes from the same people who bought you eBay.com. This website features a textbook superstore and even provides the opportunity for you to sell yours back.
  • Amazon.com is offering free two-day shipping for a year to students who sign up for Amazon Student.
  • Textbooks.com offers "The most choices. The best prices." It is an affordable alternative to a traditional bookstore.
  • Chegg.com is one of the top sites for those looking to rent books. This is convenient so you don't have to worry about what to do with the books once you are done. The site also offer a 30-day money back guarantee.


Investing in an eReader can literally take some weight off your shoulders while saving you some money in the long run. According to Coursesmart.com, an digital course material provider, users save an average of 60% when they buy digital books. Colleges are slowly starting to adapt to eReaders by making them more available to students. Using the average cost of textbooks mentioned above, using an eReader could save you $637.20 during your four years in college.


Use the Library

Be honest, you've spent the night before a big test frantically cramming. The reality is many students only use their books before exams. A good way to save money is to just check out the textbook from the library when you need it. One thing to note: Many other students may be doing the same, so make sure to get there while copies of the book remain. Since library services are included in tuition you could save the full $1,122 on books if you theoretically used your library card for all studying over the course of your college career.

Talk to Your Professor

Professors understand how expensive textbooks can be and many are more than willing to let you borrow their editions, so it never hurts to ask. This is a great way to borrow a textbook for free and get to know your professor. Introducing yourself to your professor is always a good idea: They often remember students and can offer letters of recommendation and additional help further down the road.

An exact savings number is difficult to pinpoint, but all these ways to purchase books are a better option than buying a new textbook from your college bookstore. If you take your time and do some research it shouldn't be difficult to find a better deal on textbooks.