College and Career Planning / Life Skills / Ages 14-24

5 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

If you're in college, or if you're about to send a child to college, you may have noticed how expensive college textbooks are. We feel your pain.

According to College Board, the average cost of textbooks was over $1,200 for the 2016-2017 academic year. They've only gone up since then, with no signs of decreasing. You should definitely factor in the cost of textbooks as you make a plan to pay for college, but they don't have to break the bank.

We've compiled some tips and sites that may help you save money:


Avoid your campus bookstore, if possible.

Your local campus bookstore may be the most expensive place to purchase textbooks. Unless the professor has a course or university-specific textbook that you can only buy through the store, look elsewhere first. Even then, you may want to ask your professor if they have any supplemental resources they can provide for free.


Rent textbooks or buy used ones, not new ones.

There are dozens of websites with great prices on used textbooks (we’ve listed a few below). Many of these sites also let you rent them for 30 to 180 days. Just make sure you use a textbook comparison site before you complete any purchases.


Consider the e-book version.

If you have an e-reader (like a Kindle) or a tablet (like an iPad), the e-book prices of textbooks are often significantly cheaper than hard copy versions.


Split the cost with friends.

If your friends plan to take the course the following semester (or vice versa), split the cost of the textbook with them! You will likely never use your textbooks again and they depreciate in value almost as quickly as a new car driving off the lot.


Check out the school library.

Many school libraries offer copies of textbooks that students can borrow. It is FREE to borrow books from the library. Scoring a textbook from the library is a huge win.

One last note: Tempting though it may be, DO NOT make copies. Some people and websites recommend using the photocopier in your school library to make copies of textbook sections. Making copies of copyrighted material is illegal, so don't do it.

Useful Websites for Textbook Deals

  • Big Words: You can rent or purchase textbooks on Big Words, but the best thing the site offers is a textbook price comparison tool. Before you purchase any textbook, run it through Big Words to ensure you're getting the best price available.
  • Chegg: Chegg is a highly trusted website for purchasing, renting, and selling used textbooks. Their 21-day, risk-free return is nice in case you decide to switch or drop classes.
  • Amazon: Amazon allows you to trade textbooks that you purchase and offers low-priced e-book versions of textbooks. Amazon also offers a six-month trial of their Prime benefits called Amazon Student, which includes free 2-day shipping. After six months, students can purchase a year subscription of Amazon Prime for 50% off. This offer can only be accessed by using your .edu email account.
  • Campus Books: Campus Books has been around for nearly two decades. When you type in the ISBN or the title or author, it also searches your local library to check if you're able to borrow the book for free.
  • VitalSource: VitalSource offers e-books for purchase or renting. You can access your e-book via your phone, tablet, e-reader, or laptop. One drawback is their return policy; due to the nature of e-books, getting a return may be more difficult, so keep this in mind if you end up dropping or switching a class.

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