How to Drastically Cut Textbook Costs to Keep from Racking Up More Student Loans
July 18, 2014

Over the last decade, textbook prices have risen astronomically – many as much as 82%. Individual textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars and you can easily spend $1,200 or more a year on your books. The absolute worst strategy for buying your textbooks is to go down to your campus bookstore and pluck a new one of the shelf and pay full retail. This is a fool’s gambit. Today we look at five strategies to drastically cut the costs of buying textbooks to save on out of pocket costs or borrow less in student loans.

College textbooks

Save money on textbooks
Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons User John Liu

#1 Buy Used 

This is a no-brainer option. They even have used books at your local campus book shop, but you’ll do better by buying through other venues. Sites to consider for online used book shopping: AbeBooks, Amazon, BigWords, BookFinder, eCampus, ThriftBooks, ValoreBooks and Alibris (all are .coms). You can save even more if you buy directly from other students. They are offered pennies on the dollar to sell their books back to the bookstore so you should be able to get deals. Ask around and found out who’s just had the class and make an offer. Post notices on your dorm billboard and search Craigslist local.

#2 Timeshare

If you and your roommate or a friend are taking the same class, why not share the book? You can even share among several friends and form a study group around your shared text book. This strategy worked great for my roomie and me for several core classes in our first couple of years of school. We worked it out where we head the same class but at different times (when we could) so that we each had the book 100% to ourselves during class time. This won’t work for a lab manual you need to write in, but overall can be a great strategy and land you a dedicated study buddy.

#3 Check It Out

One semester when I was flat broke, I checked out my Literature textbook from the campus library. It happened to be one they kept on hand for whatever reason. I checked it out for one month then had my roomie go in and place a hold on it so that when I had to turn it in, she could check it and then I placed a hold on it. This worked fine for the entire semester. This is a risky strategy because if someone else places a hold you may find yourself sans-textbook, but fortunately this didn’t happen, but I did go to a private college with only 500 students. Still, as a last ditch option, it’s something to consider.

#4 eBooks and Rentals

Nowadays you don’t necessarily need a paper copy of a book, so why not save some cash and a tree and opt for an ebook that you buy or rent or a paper textbook you rent. Either way, that’s one less book printed. BookRenter, Chegg, Valore, TextbookRentals, Textbooks, Neebo, Amazon and CampusBookRentals are all options for rental (all are .com sites). For eBooks, try eCampus, Neebo, CourseSmart, Amazon and Kno (all .coms). An independent study showed CampusBookRentals has the lowest rental prices. Rentals work out to roughly half the price of etextbooks, about 10%-25% of new and about 50% of used depending on the specific book and outlet.

#5 Consider an “Out of Date” Version

One of the most frustrating things is when textbook publishers decide to issue a new edition of a textbook. The fact is, there aren’t many significant changes between editions. History doesn’t change, right? Pagination will change and they may move some stuff around, but mostly it’s a scam. A study called Ripoff 101 investigated edition changes and found that most faculty say the new editions were needless. Go ahead and buy a prior version. You may need to peek at someone else’s now and then for end of chapter questions you need to turn in, but otherwise the content is virtually identical. You can pick up prior editions for a song because the bookstore won’t buy them back.

The more you can cut college costs, the less you’ll need to borrow and that’s great for your financial future. Click here to sign up for’s free student loan tool. Also read our blog often for lots of student loan advice and money saving tips.