5 Ways to Save Big on College Textbooks

| Updated on March 27, 2024

Let’s start with the good news. The price of college tuition and fees has steadily grown over the years. But college students are spending less on textbooks and materials compared to a decade ago. 

Now for the bad news. College textbooks still cost over $1,200 for the average student a year. But the growing popularity of textbook rentals, e-textbooks, and selling books online has created a cheaper alternative for students. 

This guide will show you cheap and creative ways to save money on your college textbooks. Let’s begin. 

How to Save Money on College Textbooks 

Before we begin, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, we recommend you don’t purchase all your textbooks before your classes start. And that’s because you may change your courses during the trial period. 

Some bookstores may give you the chance to return the books for a full refund. But don’t bet on it. It’s not a guarantee. 

Secondly, If you must purchase a textbook, it’s always better to buy used textbooks. But if you’ve already purchased a new book, try to keep it in good shape. That will increase the book’s value, so you get a higher price. 

Now for some helpful strategies that can help you save money. 

1. Buy College Books for Cheap Online 

College bookstores are no longer the only option to buy your textbooks. Sites like BookDeal.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble make it possible for you to compare prices before you purchase them. And that can save you lots of money each year. 

However, you can be overwhelmed with the numerous options available. And you have to carefully proceed so that you don’t become a victim of scams. So before you buy your books, make sure you review the textbook companies and double-check your book’s ISBN. 

You can also sell your books back on some sites like BookDeal.com after completing your classes. In addition, you can ship your textbooks for free, and that can further reduce the cost.

2. Purchase E-Textbooks 

Nowadays, digital books are more common compared to several years ago. Therefore, they can be quite a convenient and affordable alternative for students. Typically, e-textbooks are cheaper compared to their traditional counterparts. 

You can read e-textbooks on a tablet, laptop, or e-reader. Aside from the decreased cost, e-textbooks are also more portable. You can compare e-textbook prices at popular sites such as Apple Books, eBooks.com, and Amazon. 

3. Borrow Textbooks from Your Friends

If you’re incredibly tight on funds, you may have a chance to survive the semester by sharing textbooks with your friends or colleagues. You may have to agree and split the costs and share. 

If you plan, you could find people in your classes who will be willing to share their books with you. Sharing books with classmates can be tricky, but it can help you save hundreds of dollars on textbooks. 

Talking about tricky, you won’t give all-time access to the texts when you take this route. And it might be challenging to study at your convenience. So you need to think this through before you proceed. 

4. Rent Textbooks 

If borrowing textbooks from your friends is not a good idea for you, consider renting textbooks. Some companies claim up to 90% savings on specific textbooks, so it is an affordable option. 

But before you rent a textbook, it’s essential to read the rental agreement carefully. Also, take a good inventory of any damage to the books you borrow. Some businesses allow renters to highlight and make marks in the books. But remember that some may charge you for damages. 

It’s better to consider if a textbook is necessary for your career path or future courses. Then, based on that, you can decide on whether to rent or buy the college books. 

5. Consider Campus Library 

Checking your campus library is a free option you can consider. Numerous campus libraries have a few copies of popular textbooks. But even though this alternative is free, it can be pretty inconvenient. 

Some libraries may allow you to reserve books for particular days and times. However, due to a limited number of textbooks, you may not always get your hands on a book. That can put you in a dire situation if you have to take a test. 


The best route you can take is to buy used textbooks on bookselling sites like Amazon, BookScouter, etc. Then, of course, sell them back when you complete your classes on sites like BookDeal.com. But remember to keep your books in good condition, so you get the highest offer. 

Regardless, the options outlined in this guide can also help you save money on college books. So go through and choose the ones that best fit your situation.

Akansha Singhal

EdTech Writer

Related Posts