Ten Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

Whether you are a seasoned student in college or a freshman just starting out in college the one thing besides tuition that may leave you gasping for air is the price of college textbooks. Years ago I learned to do research before diving in and purchasing my required textbooks from the college bookstore.

Before starting research you do need to make sure you have the name of the textbook(s), the authors names, what editions and the ISBN numbers.

Just a note too: Even though some classes may have “custom” textbooks does not mean you cannot find them.


1. Before your classes begin, locate your professors email address and email them asking if it is possible to use the previous edition of the required textbook. Some professors will give you the ok, sometimes recommending during specific chapters to have some pages copied that may not be in the older edition(s). Other professors may say no possibly due to significant changes to the textbook. It never hurts to ask!

2. Visit directtextbooks.com. Type in your ISBN number and you will see the picture as well as info on your textbook. You will also see that just about every website and store that has that book in stock will appear with the price ranging from lowest to highest. This is a great way to price your textbook. BTW: sometimes Walmart.com will have your textbook so if you are a recent graduate and received a walmart gift card that can be a great way to save some $$!

3. Consider renting your textbook. Now before you run over to your local college book store that now rents books please make sure you do your research on pricing the textbooks. I discovered my local college bookstore now rents textbooks, BUT you rent them for the same price as purchasing them. So you are not saving money at all. Websites like Chegg.com and textbookrenter.com are great, reliable websites. Their shipping is fast and at the end of the semester or quarter you simply login to your account on their website and print out the return shipping label.

4. Look at your local college bulletin boards. Towards the end of the semester students will post their textbooks for sale typically at lower cost that used prices.

5. Towards the end of the semester also ask your classmates what classes they will be taking the next semester. One semester I got to sell as well as trade some of my textbooks. Other classmates want to save money just as much as you!

6. Check local used book stores, especially if you receive a reply from your professor that you can use a previous edition of the required textbook. My second semester of college I needed a handbook for my Composition II course. Brand new I would have paid $40. I found one, exact edition at a popular used book store for $7.  It was great since some of the other classmates had to order it from the book store which was on back order.

7. Ebay.com. This is one of my favorite places to find my textbooks. It is also another great way to find previous editions at much lower prices. Just make sure you use the option lowest to highest to ensure you get the best price. I have found and purchased textbooks with great prices, in fact I found some I was able to resell after the semester was over with. *This is also a great way to find unused codes for online/lab requirements. If for some reason your class does not require it, check on Ebay to see how much that particular code sells for because you may be able to make some $$$.

I was able to help a friend save $35 by purchasing a cheap textbook that included the math lab code she needed for her math class. Our college uses Pearson educational materials so I knew to look for math books that are published by Pearson. Do your research and save money!

8. Consider the eBook option. A lot of textbooks are now also available through their publisher online as an eBook. Coursesmart.com for example will give you 120 days to view the eBook textbook and also will allow you to print your textbook out and then some.  Most of the textbooks I’ve been able to get as an eBook cost at least half of what a new book would have cost me. The ones I purchased cost anywhere from $50-$80.  Also, Kindle offers this option although their prices are at or slightly below buying one brand new.

9. Amazon.com. I mentioned Kindle offering the eBook option earlier although their prices will probably not save you much money. If you don’t like Ebay but like Amazon they are just as good at selling or locating a book you can rent.

10. See if your college has a book sale day organized by fraternities or other organizations. More colleges are getting into this savvy way to trade textbooks or sell them at a great price.


Even though you may not find your textbook or necessary lab manuals, CD’s in one place don’t give up especially if you still have plenty of time before school begins. Another place to ask about textbooks and other required items is through Facebook. You never know if any of your friends or family may have that particular book you need.