Buying used textbooks online will save you money. Buying used from college bookstores, or shopping at book fairs or used bookstores, still can’t give you the quick, convenient savings you’ll get from buying used textbooks online. While not all textbooks may be available online, it is still worth a few minutes of research to potentially save $20-$30 per book, and sometimes even more.
If you can live with some highlighting, a few dog-eared pages, and a squashed bug or two, buying cheap and used is for you. If you require clean white pages and a binding that’s like new, you will have to hunt a little harder for deals.
Either way, start with the tried-and-true sites like Amazon.com, Half.com, Bigwords.com, or Abebooks.com to buy used textbooks. These sites offer good descriptions of items, seller ratings, and return policies. Other sites, such as eCampus.com, offer textbooks for rent, as well as selling e-textbooks you can download.
Comparison shop these sites to find the best prices, and keep shipping cost in mind. Try to order your books a few weeks ahead of time so you can choose slower, cheaper shipping. Even if you order them late, you can usually ask a classmate to share a textbook for the first week of class.
With seller ratings and return policies, there is little risk in buying textbooks online. Do not buy from sellers with lower than a 90% rating; be willing to pay a few dollars more to get books from a reputable seller. You don’t want to waste time returned damaged or wrong books; poor ratings are there for a reason.
You can also sell back your textbooks online, sometimes getting as much as 75% of your money back. That adds up to even better savings.
If you buy textbooks from your college bookstore, you will pay full sticker price for new books, adding up to hundreds of dollars per semester, and usually not much less for used. Even if you sell your books back at the end of the semester, you will end up paying more than you would have, if you had purchased them online.
QUICK TIP: Also check for older editions of textbooks. If there have only been a few minor changes to the text, you can buy last year’s edition for a dramatic savings, since textbooks drastically lower in price once a new edition comes out. However, if there have been larger changes, like adding new chapters or updating large sections, this method won’t work. It will just make your college life more stressful – so invest some time in online research before purchasing an older version of a textbook.