When I went back to school some years ago I expected tuition to be higher, and it was. That wasn’t a shock though. I know that tuition goes up every year and how expensive it is. I was prepared for that.
Know what shocked me? I was shocked at how expensive textbooks had become!
I found that some textbooks were easily $100+, some lots more. I quickly realized I had to figure out how to get cheaper textbooks!
Here are some great ways to save on your textbooks and get them for less:
1. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble
I check these places first to get an idea of what used copies of the textbook is going for (used textbooks are the way to go since new ones tend to be full price). I like the interfaces on these sites and since I’ve already been using them for years I trust them. I’ve bought books from both and have never had any problems. The books were clean and showed up on time. With Amazon you get to search third-party sellers and you can see their review ratings to get an idea about a company’s or individual’s business.
2. Online used textbook company
In recent years a ton of used textbook companies have emerged, offering up used copies of textbooks at significant discounts. It’s worth checking out these sites for both the discounts and because sometimes an edition can be hard to find and only these companies have a copy. For sure this is similar to getting a book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble but I separate them out here since they strictly deal in textbooks.
3. Rent the textbook
A new type of textbook company has sprung up – the textbook rental company.
The idea here is you rent the textbook for one semester then return it. This way you don’t have to concern yourself with selling a book after the class ends or being stuck with the book if the edition changes before the next semester. Make sure you return the book or you could be charged full price for it. Some textbook rental companies to check out are: Chegg, College Book Renter, BookRenter, and Campus Book Rentals.
Another company I have used is CengageBrain. I had an economics class that required the book from them and I had to do the homework through their portal.
4. Get the Online Edition
Many publishers are taking advantage of advances in technology, what with the growing tablet and laptop market, and are offering up online editions of their books.
This could be great if you’d rather not deal with carrying another 15 pound textbook around with you. Pull up your book on your iPad, or other device, and you have your textbook at your fingertips.
I’ve seen publishers do different things with online editions. Some give you a copy of the book that’s yours to keep while others give you access to the book for the semester (you’re basically renting the book online). There may be instances where you need a certain program to use the book or you need to access it through the publisher’s site.
Usually the online edition ends up cheaper than the hardcopy.
5. Notices in School
I always see notices up on boards in the hallways from students selling their books from last semester. Keep an eye out and you can snag a textbook at a deep discount and you can also pick the seller’s brain about how the class was!
Most teachers will have at least one copy of the textbook on reserve in the school library. If you have the time to get to the library, this can be a great way to save on the textbook. Keep in mind though that there may be other people looking for the book too and you can only study from the book while at the library (you usually can’t take them out).
I’ve also had success with e-editions of literature books I was able to borrow from libraries.
7. Go Half With Another Student
Have a friend in class? Make one!
An option for students is to go half on the textbook and share it. This can easily cut your book expense in half on an already discounted used book. Benefit here is expense but the drawback is sharing the book and coming up with a schedule. This plan can also give you a study partner for the semester too!
8. Buy an Older Edition
Sometimes a publisher releases a new edition because the material becomes outdated (imagine a book on the economy the past 30 years!). Other times though, a publisher releases a new book just to get people to buy more new books.
Publishers know that students buy used textbooks and after some time the publisher isn’t selling new books anymore. Enter the new edition.
But you know what?
Sometimes the new edition doesn’t have much different from the older editions. Maybe the page numbers are off or there are wording differences, but the content is the same.
Talk with your professor and see if the older edition is usable. You can really save significantly here. An older edition can make for one cheap textbook. (I had a professor that gave out homework assignments that included the question numbers from the old edition!)
Do keep in mind that some new editions really do have new content!
9. Buy the International Edition
Did you know that some textbooks have an international edition? And did you know that some of these editions are EXACTLY the same as the U.S. edition in content?
Yup, it’s true.
The only differences may be cosmetic. In my experience the international edition may have a soft cover rather than a hard cover, which to me is a bonus since the book won’t be as heavy. These books come at a nice discount to the U.S. editions.
Make sure that the international edition is, in fact, the same though. You don’t want to be stuck with a book that is different. Also keep in mind that it could be a little more difficult to sell the book but it may be worth it for the initial discount!
One semester I had to buy a calculus book. I don’t know if it’s true everywhere but it seems calculus books are always expensive. Anyway, I was able to get an international copy of the book I needed that was close to half off. Except for the cover the book was identical to the U.S. edition.
10. Don’t Buy the Textbook
Talk to your professor. Most times a professor is required to assign a book to the class even though it won’t be used much.
Many times I’ve taken a class and barely cracked open the book. What a waste!
See from the professor how much the book will be used. You may be surprised to find out you don’t need the book. That is significant savings! (I had one professor who told us what the book would be then basically gave the ole “wink, wink, nod, nod” and inferred that the book wouldn’t really be used.)
Talking to students who took the class before could be useful if the professor won’t give a definite answer (sometimes they have a financial interest in a book). You may be able to get by without the book, go to the library to study, or borrow the book from a fellow student when needed (be nice and chum up to a few students in class).
Sometimes you have to suck it up and buy a new textbook. (One new twist I’ve seen is that you need a code, CD, or online access for additional work that only comes with a new book.) But most times you can save significantly and get your college textbooks for less with a little bit of research and by shopping around!