How to Save Money on Textbooks

The cost of college tuition in itself can be astronomical. When you add textbooks to the equation, it can get downright ridiculous. The average cost of a college textbook can range from $50 to $160 – for one textbook! Some classes require more than one book, and when you multiply the average number of classes a student takes with the number of books required, the average college student can spend well over a $1,000 a year on books they will more than likely never use again. It’s like a bridesmaid’s dress – it works for the moment and then there’s little use for it.

There are some bookstores and websites that will buy your used textbooks, but at drastically reduced prices. For instance, I purchased a textbook for an accounting class and spent $168.50. After taking the class, I sold the book back to the bookstore. Want to guess how much I received for my “lightly” used book? They gave me $33.70. That’s only 20 percent of what I paid for it. I checked with the bookstore a few weeks later to see how much they were selling the used accounting book for and found a sticker for $78. Needless to say, I felt cheated.

So what can you do? You need the books for the class, but don’t want to spend the money on a book you will only use for a short time. I’ve been taking classes for more than a few years now, slowly crawling my way to a degree. Like many others, I work full-time and take online classes at night. I am on a tight budget, and buying new textbooks is not an option, especially through the university bookstore where the prices are excessive, to say the least. The following are some ways that I have saved significant amounts of money on textbooks for my classes.

1. Renting books is a great option, especially for core classes. Chegg.com both sells and rents textbooks. They have a large inventory and I’ve had no problems with getting books to and from them. Another bonus is that for every book you rent, they will plant a tree in a location of your choice. Makes you feel all warm and tingly inside to be able to save the trees, doesn’t it?

2. Another rental source is Valorebooks.com. I’ve rented books from them and again, had no issues. They also have a decent inventory of used books at very low prices. However, they do not plant a tree for every rental, but they have competitive rental prices. The choice is yours – save green or be green.

3. Cengagebrain.com is an excellent source for all of you procrastinators out there. When you’ve waited until the last minute to buy your book, only to find that it will take 7-10 days to get to you and you have a 10-page report due the first week of class, this website may be your savior. You can actually view the first chapter online for free. That’s right, for free! After that, you can either buy each chapter one at a time (for those with paycheck-to-paycheck budgets) or the entire book. One downfall, however, is that their inventory isn’t as large as others, so it can be a hit or miss on whether they have the book you need.

4. Another good source for procrastinators is Coursesmart.com. You can rent an electronic version of the textbook and even print the book (10 pages at a time), if needed. Their prices are also competitive and I’ve used their website several times with no problems.

5. Last, but not least, are the good old standbys: Amazon and eBay. You can get really good deals on used textbooks (and sometimes even new ones). I’ve been able to buy books for 80-90 percent off the price my university bookstore was selling the book for.

Remember that all of these sources will also buy back many of the textbooks you may have and give you either cash or a credit towards your next purchase. Don’t expect to get back much, but something is better than nothing. Keep in mind, the sooner you sell back your books, the more you will get for them. A month-old textbook is always more valuable than a three-year-old one, because of the updates to editions, the ever-changing course offerings and the ubiquitous professor preferences.

So now that you are armed with these pearls of wisdom, good luck on your quest for textbook savings and happy shopping!