Textbooks Are Expensive. Forget Why That Is—Here’s How to Find Cheap Textbooks & Save Each Semester.
When you go to college, you know that you’re going to have to account for a lot of expenses. But textbooks? For some reason, even in the digital age, we’re still seeing that we’re expected to dole out a whole bunch of money just for books. In fact, one Forbes article says that, “[s]ince 1978, college textbooks have risen 812 percent – more than twice as fast as the price of a new home.” That’s crazy!
Simply put, textbooks are expensive because the publishers want to keep making money. They plan to make old editions useless so that students have to continue buying new ones. Yeah, it’s not very cool of them to do that, but it’s what they do to stay in business.
There are lots of barriers that keep students from saving money and lots of consequences. Sometimes textbooks come with unique online access codes that can only be used once, which makes the book useless to resell. Sometimes professors require books but hardly even use them during the semester, which makes it useless to have spent money on in the first place! Sometimes students won’t even buy the book because they can’t afford it.
Sometimes life is hard, but I have made a list of resources to help keep textbook costs as low as possible. Check it out!
Buy Books Outside of Your School
Your college bookstore is not where the cheap books are. From my experience, they’re usually pretty expensive, and they never have any markdowns. Sometimes, however, professors assign books that they have written themselves, leaving you with no option but to get them where they’re sold at full price. Apart from those you can only find at your campus bookstore, every book is likely to be cheaper if you buy it somewhere else!
Where to Rent and Buy Books
You can typically find the best deal at third-party booksellers that allow you to rent what you need. You have the ability to rent textbooks for an entire semester, enjoying the ability to lightly highlight them and take notes (without going overboard, of course. You’ll just have to make sure that you remember to send them back on time and in good condition, or else you could end up paying for the whole thing.
Here are a few examples of where you can rent textbooks or buy them at a reduced price!
Amazon is my personal favorite place to rent and buy textbooks. With a rental motto for textbooks of “Click, rent, save,” you could save up to 90% on textbook rentals or buy used textbooks for 90% off and brand-new textbooks for 49% off. If you choose to rent, you can opt to keep them for a semester, a month, or for however long you wish. You’re only charged for the length of time you have the textbook. Amazon makes it easy for students who may not know how long they really need their book. If another class ends up requiring the same book, for instance, you can always extend the terms of your rental period. Plus, with a Prime Student account, you can get free shipping and have the book delivered to your door within 2 days. The returns are free, too!
Amazon also has a library of eTextbooks, which is a digital version of a book that you can access with a smart device. With eTextbooks, you can forget about lugging around a heavy backpack, worrying about missing pages, or seeing old notes or lines highlighted by previous renters. If you’re undecided on whether to rent/purchase a digital copy or order the hard copy, Amazon gives you 7 days to try the eTextbook for free and decide whether you’d prefer to have the physical book instead. And if you buy a textbook from Amazon, remember that you can sell it back for an Amazon gift card.
Fun facts about Amazon:
- Amazon started as a book marketplace before becoming the world’s most powerful ecommerce site.
- Students may be eligible for a tax exemption on textbooks in some states when they purchase them from Amazon.
- You can get up to 80% back from the value of a textbook when you sell it on Amazon.
Chegg is another great website for renting textbooks, as it can help you save up to 90%. You can rent by semester, and if you accidentally got the wrong book or find out that you don’t need it anymore, there is a 21-day free return policy. Plus, if you buy or rent a textbook, you get a free 4-week trial of Chegg Study, a platform that helps you with homework and problems in the book.
Chegg lets you highlight your rented book so you can study more efficiently, and you’re able to extend your rentals and get free returns.
Maybe you’re more tech-savvy and prefer to have a digital copy of all your textbooks. Chegg offers eTextbooks for over 500k titles. These eTextbooks are easily accessible through any smart device, and by using the website’s “Review Mode,” you have the freedom to highlight, search, bookmark, and take notes like you would with a hard copy. The mobile application even lets you access eTextbooks offline.
Fun facts about Chegg:
- Chegg ships to any of the 50 states.
- Most books from Chegg are used, but don’t expect to receive books that are damaged and heavily marked up. Chegg removes all textbooks that aren’t in good condition, so you have nothing to worry about.
- Chegg will automatically add to your cart a FREE 7-day access period to the eTextbook version of your physical rental (if it’s available)! This way, you’re able to follow along in class while your hard copy is being shipped to you.
- Chegg believes in helping students save, so it has even more discounts to find on its website.
- Writing a research paper? Chegg offers a free tool that allows you to check for plagiarism and grammatical errors. And you can format your citations easily through EasyBib.
- Ready to hop into your career? Explore and apply to internships for cities like Austin, Boston, and Chicago through Chegg Internships.
Barnes & Noble
If you like the experience of going into a store and getting in-person help, Barnes & Noble is your best bet for looking to rent or buy college textbooks. Although it’s not a bookseller that is solely online, you can still find some great deals. Whether you buy used or new, Barnes & Noble helps students reduce their costs with discounts of up to 80% off. More specifically, they advertise on their website that shoppers can save up to 80% on used textbooks and 40% on new textbooks when shopping with them. And, like Amazon and Chegg, it allows you to choose the length of how long you want to rent a textbook.
Unlike Amazon, which gives you a gift card in exchange for your books, Barnes & Noble will buy your textbooks for cash.
Fun facts about Barnes & Noble:
- Barnes & Noble’s Top Subjects: Medicine, Business, Psychology, Science/Tech, Language, and Social Studies
- Barnes & Noble has more than 600 standalone stores, allowing you to pick up your purchases within hours of ordering.
- Easily get a quote online with the click of a button for textbooks you wish to sell to Barnes & Noble for cash.
- Returns for new or used textbooks are accepted within 30 days of the date that you received your order.
- Barnes & Noble has high standards for the condition of used books they sell. Every book is reviewed before resell, ensuring that they are free of things like excessive underlining, missing pages, scribbles, or stains.
Knetbooks is another site at which you can rent, sell, and buy (for up to 85% off!) your textbooks. With up to 85% of savings, you’re probably better off shopping with Knetbooks than your campus bookstore. Knetbooks offers free shipping and the option to choose how long you want to rent your book. Plus, the due date on rentals is flexible and able to be extended at any time.
You can sell your textbooks back to Knetbooks for cash—they even pay for shipping!
Fun facts about Knetbooks:
- 495,368 students have saved $60,095,530 by renting from Knetbooks.
- Knetbooks has over 30 Popular Search Categories like Chemistry, Dentistry, Mathematics, and Accounting.
- Knetbooks launched in 2009.
- Knetbooks’ warehouse is in Lexington, KY.
- Rental periods range from a full semester (93 days) or quarter (79 days) to shorter-terms of just 58 days.
- Long-term rentals from Knetbooks come with a 25-day refund guarantee.
- Short-term rentals must be received within 15 days to qualify for the refund guarantee.
ECampus’ mission is to set online bookstore industry standards for savings, selection, convenience and customer service. The company slogan—”Textbooks Easy. Fast. Cheap!”—streamlines all book-buying processes with free returns to every customer, no questions asked. Just by renting textbooks instead of buying brand-new ones from ECampus, you could save hundreds of dollars every semester. ECampus offer savings of up to 90% off the original price along with a 25-day return policy. And you have the option to decide on your own return date that works with your schedule.
Want to save even more? In addition to ECampus’ coupon webpage that offers coupon codes to help you save, the ECampus EWards rewards program gives you even more savings. All you need is an email to join, and you’ll start earning points just through anything as simple as posting on social media. Did we mention you receive 175 points just for signing up?
Ever wish you could get your parents or loved one to buy a textbook for you? Ask for an ECampus gift certificates for your birthday or holidays like Christmas. Gift certificates can be purchased in denominations of $25, $50 or $100, carry no fees, and never expire.
Concerned about shipping cost? ECampus offers free shipping on orders over $35 (which, let’s be real, is how much you’re going to have to spend on textbooks anyway). And like all good sellers, ECampus will buy your books from you with no extra fees. It’s super easy and the money is deposited directly into your bank account.
Fun facts about ECampus:
- ECampus’ rewards program, EWards, is easy to use and gives you more ways to save.
- Many of the physical books come with a digital version that you can view while you wait for your delivery.
- The ECampus website launched in 1999.
- Get $5 off your order by texting BOOKS to 87955.
- ECampus’ customer service is easily accessible through a live chat option on the website.
Alibris can save you up to 80% on any of over 150 million used books. Operating similarly to Amazon, Alibris has connected millions of buyers and sellers since 1998. As an added bonus, Alibris’ network directly supports local and independent sellers.
Alibris’ “Alternate Editions” which are simply international editions of the same book, have the same content as the US versions but with a 50% lower price.
You can sell your textbooks to Alibris as well. They’ll offer you the best price that they can, which is all anyone could ask for.
Fun facts about Alibris:
- Alibris was founded in 1998.
- Alibris partners with such companies as Barnes & Noble and Books-a-million.
- Alibris’ distribution center is in Sparks, Nevada
- Alibris makes an active effort to operate with the most environmentally friendly shipping practices.
- Consisting of fewer than 100 people, Alibris still manages to be the largest independently owned and operated online book, music, and movie marketplace.
- Alibris hosts an open community for book collectors and lovers to discuss what they’re reading.
Valore Books, powered by more than 18,000 verified sellers and rental providers, is a one-stop shop with an all-inclusive service. With millions of textbooks to rent and buy, Valore Books can help you save up to 90% off of the original price. Valore Books has helped students save an average of $500 a year. And, like others, Valore Books offers flexible rental timelines and free returns. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee as well as the option to sell back any books that you have purchased.
Fun facts about Valore Books:
- Valore Books has free shippingfor all textbook rentals and returns.
- Instant price quotes are available for anyone looking to sell.
- Valore Books promises dedicated, one-on-one customer service to all.
Textbooks.com gives you the option to buy and sell textbooks to help you throughout your college career. Along with free shipping on purchases of $25 or more, If you are guaranteed 50% cash back and easy 30-day returns. Textbooks.com has eTextbooks with multitasking multimedia as well as handouts to encourage you to form study groups and develop helpful studying tactics. The best part is that you can get instant access to your ebook while you wait for the hard copy to come in the mail.
If you want to sell your book, you have the option to do that as well. You can get a quick and easy quote on your book, ship it for free, and earn your money!
Fun facts about Textbooks.com:
- Textbooks.com has over 10 million new and used books in its warehouse for you to choose from.
- It has great buy-back deals, and it will even cover the cost of the shipping label for you to ship your books!
- The Textbooks.com Marketplace is a community of over 10,000 independent sellers, all of whom are vetted and authorized to sell.
Better World Books
Better World Books can help you save a lot of money on books throughout your college career. With both used and new textbooks at great prices, it provides great customer service and free shipping on all international orders. Better World Books accepts returns within 60 days, giving you the ability to return your book if you suddenly decide to drop one of your classes or realize that you need something else.
Fun facts about Better World Books:
- For every book you buy from Better World Books, it donates a book to someone in need.
- Better World Books offers literacy grants as a way to serve others around the world.
- You can donate your books to Better World Books, which sells them at a discounted price.
- 96% of customers have given Better World Books a 4- or 5-star rating.
- Since its launch in 2003, Better World Books has raised more than $27 million for libraries and literacy, donated over 26 million books, and reused or recycled over 300 million books.
- Better World Books went carbon neutral in 2006.
When you rent your books from Textbook Solutions, you can save up to 90% on any selection of millions of books. Free shipping is available for orders of $50 or more, and there is a generous refund period if you need to return your order.
You can sell your book, too, for a great price.
Fun facts about Textbook Solutions:
- Textbook Solutions was founded by two Texas A&M graduates whose experience as students inspired them to save others money.
- The company has three brick-and-mortar stores with plans to open more across the nation.
- Textbook Solutions allows you to highlight and write freely in your rentals.
TextbookRush.com has millions of titles to choose from with potential savings of up to 90%. It provides free shipping on orders over $35 dollars, and some purchases can even qualify for same-day delivery. It also makes returns easy with a 30-day return policy, and you can sell your books easily with a prepaid shipping label.
Fun facts about TextbookRush:
- TextbookRush will send you your book in a reusable box, all in line with its environmentally centered mission.
- The Rush Rewards U program allows you to gain points with each rental and earn even more savings on future purchases.
- The first brick-and-mortar store opened in Ohio in 1994. The owner sold nearly 70% of the store’s supply within the first quarter!
Ebay Textbook Center
The Ebay Textbook Center is a great place to buy used books for cheap prices. I recommend checking Ebay at the end of a semester or in the early summertime, as this is typically when students will start selling their books from the classes they have just finished. Keep in mind that other people might be looking for the same book as you, so make sure you find the correct edition and act quickly. You can find everything from access codes, tests, or workbooks that can help you through your classes, too.
Fun facts about Ebay Textbook Center:
- Ebay is famous for its bidding system, so you can bid on the book you need, which is a great way to compete for in-demand books.
- There are many different sellers on Ebay, so it is easy to find the correct edition of the book you want.
At Abebooks.com, you can find many different cheap or used textbooks, including international editions that have the same information but with a lower selling price. Abebooks’ international edition textbook marketplace is its biggest differentiator from other resources. Their international marketplace allows students to search by author, title, keywords, and/or ISBN in order to sift through a whole database of low-cost textbooks with steep discounts. Something else that sets AbeBooks apart from other competitors is its interface which, unlike other marketplaces, clearly shows sellers’ overall rating on the product description. Shipping can vary by seller, but it’s easy to find the lowest overall price with shipping included.
Fun facts about Abebooks:
- Abebooks partners with local sellers for more inventory and better prices.
- Abebooks guarantees fast shipping.
- In business since 1996, the company has a strong history of customer satisfaction.
Rakuten, a Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing business, is among the largest companies in the world for ecommerce sales. An Amazon rival, Rakuten can earn you cash back directly through PayPal with every purchase. And while Rakuten is a multifaceted company selling many different products, it is also a great website for all of your cheap textbook needs at prices that you can afford. Its Super Points rewards program also gives you points for every dollar you spend. These points can then add up for extra savings through coupons, free shipping, and other great deals!
Fun facts about Rakuten:
- You can manually search by author, publisher, whether a book has free shipping, and your desired price range.
- Regularly distributed promo codes and coupons can save you even more money.
- Another great place for inexpensive textbooks!
Half Price Books
Half Price Books is a bit of a misnomer but in a good way. You can actually buy used books not just at half the price, but at as much as 80% off! Half Price Books is family owned with more than 120 brick-and-mortar stores across the country. It wants students to succeed, so there are always great deals on books, especially around the beginning of each semester. Half Price Books’ database is segmented thoroughly. You can search for textbooks by undergraduate, graduate, professional, scholarly/associate, and more degree levels.
Fun facts about Half Price Books:
- Half Price Books began in 1972 in Dallas, Texas, in what had once been an old laundromat.
- With love for its community, it has continued to support literacy and the environment for over 40 years.
Websites to Compare Textbook Prices
As you can see from the number of marketplaces in this article, there are so many places to go to buy college textbooks for a low price. But with so many options, it can end up being a hassle to figure out where the best savings will be! Thankfully, there are just as many websites that can help you lessen the noise and compare prices all across the Internet. Textbook comparison search engines do the work for you, so read below to learn about Cheapest Textbooks, Campus Books, All Bookstores, and others to save yourself some time and avoid spending more money on textbooks than you have to.
As the title suggests, Cheapest Textbooks is all about helping you find the most affordable listings of books through a review of thousands of websites. Here, you can find savings of up to 70% on textbook rentals and up to 95% on purchases—a deal better than most others you’ll find online. Cheapest Textbooks acts as a middleman that guides you to the best place to buy a textbook in terms of price. It’s important to keep in mind, therefore, that it is only a search tool and not responsible for sales transactions or purchasing policies. Shipping fees and return policies are going to vary based on the seller’s policy, not Cheapest Textbooks.
This search engine is very detailed and powerful. It makes it easy to view options to buy, rent, and sell all on one page and within one search.
If you want to sell your books, you can also use the Cheapest Textbooks search tool to the buyback sites that will give you the most money.
Fun facts about Cheapest Textbooks:
- Cheapest Textbooks was founded in 2001 by a college student while they were still in school.
Bookfinder is a great tool to help you compare book prices from over 100,000 sellers worldwide. You’re able to search for all the prices of a single book on websites like Abebooks, Amazon, and ValoreBooks all at once.
Fun facts about Bookfinder:
- Not only does it help find low costs to buy and rent books, but it also finds cost comparisons for buyback prices.
- The BookFinder website is part of the BookFinder.com/JustBooks network, which was produced by a team of high-tech librarians and programmers based in Berkeley, California, and Düsseldorf, Germany.
- BookFinder was launched in 1997 by then-19-year-old UC Berkeley undergraduate Anirvan Chatterjee.
- BookFinder is a one-stop ecommerce search engine that searches over 150 million books for sale—new, used, rare, and out-of-print.
Campus Books is an online textbook comparison tool that can find savings of up to 90%. You can find the best price by comparing whether it would be cheaper, ultimately, to buy or rent your textbooks by comparing all of its access options across different sellers. Its shopping interface is nifty, too; the search results include the final prices that include tax, shipping, and available coupons.
Campus Books also compares buyback sites to help you find the store that will buy books from you for the most money.
Fun facts about Campus Books:
- Campus Books locates and provides coupons that can further add to your discounted costs.
- Campus Books recommends students to sell their books back during the off season to get the most money back. This is usually in the months of August and January during the back-to-school rush.
All Bookstores doesn’t sell books, but it scrounges the web to find different sellers and prices for you to buy, rent, and sell your books. With a simple yet extraordinarily helpful premise, this site is committed to helping you save the most money possible and make the most money possible.
Fun facts about All Bookstores:
- Its search engine finds titles through an array of 3 dozen online booksellers.
Unlike other comparison sites, DealOz sets itself apart with the unique “Price Alerts” feature. Here, you can make a list of the textbooks you’re hunting for, and DealOz will alert you the second that it finds them listed for a new, lower price. But even if you don’t have time to wait for a price drop, DealOz can still help you save up to 97% on books! It can also help you decide where to sell your book by showing you the highest price you can get for it.
Fun facts about DealOz:
- DealOz compares prices from over 200 websites.
- The site’s free coupon search can help you find even more discounts.
- The rewards program can hook you up with more savings every time you participate.
Slug Books is another comparison website for your benefit. It can help you save money when you buy textbooks by showing you which website will sell it to you for the lowest prices. It connects you with outside resources to give you the most affordable place to buy cheap textbooks. Be prepared to save a lot of money.
Fun facts about Slug Books:
- Slug Books launched in 2008.
- The site makes it easy to compare already competitive prices at popular sites like Amazon and Chegg.
Big Words doesn’t sell anything, but it connects you to a slew of textbook retailers to find the best asking prices. The site searches through old books, new books, textbooks, big books, and small books—all to help you save up to 90% by locating the best listing for your money.
Fun facts about Big Words:
- It compares prices not only for books, but also a variety of other must-haves.
- Big Words invites you to sell your books to bidders, potentially earning you even more money than if you were to sell it for a flat rate.
Having access to an eBook gives you the opportunity to take your textbook with you wherever you go without having to carry it around. Sometimes it is less expensive than the actual textbook, but don’t be fooled; that’s not always the case, so do your research! There are various different websites that sell eBooks, such as Amazon, Chegg, and the sellers listed below.
Strictly for eTextbooks, Vital Source can be used on any device both online and offline. With a digital copy, you can highlight and write notes, listen to an audio version, use flashcards to help you study, and even look up unfamiliar words. All of these tools are otherwise unavailable from most physical rentals, which you won’t be able to scribble in. Plus, you won’t have to carry a heavy textbook with you all day to classes, coffee shops, etc. because it is already on your computer. There is no need to worry about free shipping, and you don’t have to wait for your book to be delivered.
Fun facts about Vital Source:
- Vital Source believes that book cost should not prohibit a student from learning.
- Multiple interactive study tools are designed to help you learn.
Borrow From a Classmate
Borrowing your textbook from a classmate can be an easy way to save money. Make sure that they don’t need it back at the same time you need it, especially around the time of an important test! Be mindful of who you borrow from, and be responsible enough to share it with and return it to them.
Use the Library
Using the library allows you to access the books you need for free. Depending on your school, you might even be able to check out a book for an entire semester. One downside, of course, is that you can’t write in it at all. And keep in mind that you’re on the only one with this idea! Check the library for your books early on in the semester, because other students in your class might be doing the same thing.
Some students split the cost of textbooks 50/50. This works best when these students take the same class during different semesters. I wouldn’t recommend sharing a textbook with someone taking a class in the same semester, because you’ll both have to navigate how to share it while you both need it. No matter what, however, splitting the cost is a great way to save.
Sell Your Textbook
You might be wondering what you are supposed to do with your textbook once you’re done with your class. While you should obviously return any books that you rented, you should also consider selling the ones you purchased to your campus bookstore or any one of the websites mentioned earlier in this article.