How to get college textbooks cheap – now that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
College textbooks are infamously expensive, with the average cost of a new book costing as much as $400 (if you’re lucky). Fortunately, if you’re looking for tips on how to save money on college textbooks, the Internet is rife with resources.
Want to get cheap or even free textbooks for college? Look no further than these 14 best spots.
With deep discounts on millions of titles, ValoreBooks is another place to check for your textbook title.
There’s free shipping and 30-day returns, and with access to more than 18,000 sellers and rental providers, there’s a good chance that they have exactly what you need.
This is a top site to check out if you are on a college student budget.
How Much You Can Save: up to $500 per year
Trend on the Rise
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of college textbooks increased more than 88% in the period between 2006 and 2016 – and the numbers have only risen higher. That’s why it’s more important than ever to find a way to buy cheap textbooks and to get a return on your investment by reselling them. ValoreBooks can help you do just that!
Rakuten isn’t necessarily a discount textbook site like many of the other resources on this list. That said, it’s still a great place to find the best prices on just about…well, anything!
Shop Rakuten and you can search by free shipping, price range, publisher, subject, genre, and more.
You won’t buy directly on this platform but will instead be redirected to another retail site, where you’ll find those great deals and get cashback credited to your account.
If you’re still struggling to afford textbooks, check out these ways to make money at college without a job.
How Much You Can Save: Average of 5% cashback
Whether you choose to bid on auctions or Buy it Now, eBay has plenty of ways that you can shop for your textbooks.
It’s one of the largest online marketplaces so regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
Prices do vary significantly but you’ll get the added bonus of an auction if you decide to bid!
Of course, there’s the time commitment involved – sellers on eBay aren’t locked into strict shipping deadlines so you’ll want to check the estimated window before you buy to make sure you get your book in time.
When the semester is over, you can sell your books on eBay to make some extra cash back.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 25-95%
Bigwords is a clearinghouse where you can buy used college textbooks for a steep discount.
It also scours the Internet for additional promo codes, discounts, and coupons, so you’ll always know the best time to buy, rent, or sell.
That’s right – you can sell back your books to Bigwords, too, which can be another way to make money while in law school or college.
How Much You Can Save: 35-45%
Trend on the Rise
U.S. News & World Report estimates that the average college student will spend around $1240 per year on textbooks and other supplies. When you buy and sell used books from places like Bigwords, you can cut those costs by nearly half.
Who doesn’t love Amazon? Whether you’re using Amazon to browse your favorite books, buy a dress for your cousin’s wedding or hey, even to stock up on toilet paper, it’s a go to online shopping hot spot for many people.
(And also an employer of many jobs for college dropouts… but hopefully the price of the books won’t cause that!)
You can buy, sell, and even rent textbooks and e-Books on Amazon. The prices are well below what you’d pay at the college bookstore and with an Amazon Prime membership, you can get free shipping in just two days.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 49% on new textbooks
Tactic for Success
Sign up for an Amazon Student Membership. This will allow you to tap into a six-month free trial of Prime, then Prime billed at just half the price.
9. Share Textbooks
Another way to save money on your college textbooks? Share them with another classmate.
If you have a friend taking the same class as you, you can sit next to them in class and then swap the book out for homework duty after hours.
It’s a smart way to slash the costs of brand-new textbooks in half – and it works well for those oddball titles that you just can’t find in any online bookstore.
How Much You Can Save: 50% (Uloop.com)
8. Campus Book Rentals
Like many of the other sites on our list, Campus Book Rentals makes it easier than ever to rent, buy or sell textbooks for far lower prices than what you’d find at the school bookstore.
There are flexible rental periods so you aren’t locked into a one-size-fits-all term. Plus, you’ll get free return shipping and a 21-day return period.
Other benefits of Campus Book Rentals include:
- Flexible Options – Ability to buy, sell, or rent
- Highlighting – Freedom to highlight like you own the book
- Great Support – Live customer service
- Access Codes Included – In most cases!
How Much You Can Save: Up to 50-95%
Knetbooks is a rental-only website, but you’ll get steep deals and free shipping both ways.
You can even sign up for text message updates so you know when to send your books back – and to get shipping information tracked directly to your phone.
You’ll also love Knetbooks because it offers:
- Many Search Options – Lets you search by ISBN, author, or title
- Various Rental Terms – Allows you to choose from short term, quarter, and semester rentals
- Comparison Shopping Made Easy – Makes it easy to compare prices and due dates
- Optional Extensions – Allows you to extend your rental period if necessary
How Much You Can Save: Up to 85%
AbeBooks offers more than just textbooks. You can buy other things here, too, including collectibles, rare books, and special editions of books.
It’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for and most books come with free shipping. There are regular seller sales that can help save you even more money, too.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 90%
Another place to find cheap textbooks is Textbooks.com. The name says it all! Here, you can browse more than 10 million books in stock and even get free shipping on orders over $25.
Of course, like many of the sellers on this list, you’ll also get easy 30 day returns in case the books you receive don’t line up with what you actually need.
All used books are hand-inspected to ensure they’re in good shape, too – you won’t get a tattered mess in the mail when you order here.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 90%
With eCampus, you can rent, buy, or even sell both textbooks and eBooks.
With free shipping on purchases over $35 and a 25-day hassle-free return policy, there’s a lot to love here.
They also offer regular promotional specials in which you can save an extra $5 or more on your order. That may not be a lot, but it all adds up to more money for pizza and beer, right?
How Much You Can Save: Up to 90%
3. Get Open Source Books
More and more professors are using open source books for their classes.
These are textbooks that are published for free online and posted with an unrestricted license – you can download them and read them from your smartphones, making this one of the best methods for getting textbooks for absolutely nothing.
There are multiple open source websites out there, but two of the best are College Open Textbooks and OpenStax.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 100% (College Open Textbooks)
2. Use a Search Tool
If you don’t want to sift through the dozens of different textbook sellers and resellers out there, you might want to expedite the process by using a search tool.
MyNextCollege is one website that offers a comparison tool so you can type in the ISBN for the book you need and instantly get prices on the textbook you need from everywehre on the web. No more shopping around – and you can often get books for next to nothing.
How Much You Can Save: Up to 100% (MyNextCollege)
1. Check the Library
This isn’t necessarily a foolproof method – but if you’re on a tight budget, check the library before you buy a single college textbook.
Sometimes professors will put library copies on reserve for students – so you can check them out even for just a few hours in the library.
You won’t have to pay anything, and if your professor doesn’t assign projects or assignments with the textbook that often, it’s a great way to save money.
Just make sure you’re using the right version of the textbook, since publishers often release multiple versions and you could get yourself in trouble on an assignment by using the wrong one for reference.
In addition to using a brick-and-mortar library for your textbooks, you can also tap into a resource like interlibrary loan, which lets you access thousands of additional books from around the country.
How Much You Can Save: 100% (Uloop.com)
Now that you know how to get college textbooks cheap, what are you waiting for? Start shopping – and start saving – for your education today.
Now if only there was a way to make those boring class lectures shorter, too..
Rebekah is a writer who covers all things education, business, agriculture, and finance. She owns a small farm business in upstate New York. Her educational credentials include a bachelor's degree in English from St. Lawrence University and a master's in special education from SUNY Plattsburgh.