How to save big on your college textbooks

How to save big on your college textbooks If you’ve been planning for college accordingly, you’ve probably been applying for scholarships and grants to cut tuition costs. But what about textbooks? 

Some college textbooks cost $100 or more! So what if we told you that you only needed $100 a year for all your books? If you are creative and follow some insider secrets, you can score big deals on books.

Be a savvy consumer
Toting around used textbooks is a sign you’re a savvy consumer. Heather Sokol, who graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. ( in 2010, prefers used textbooks: “Used books are not only cheaper, but a lot of the time, you’ll get someone else’s notes in the margins or you’ll see that they highlighted the important sections for you.” 

Robyn Bird, an English literature graduate student at Northern Illinois University (, is also a big fan of used books: “I’ve never paid full price or even the school bookstore’s ‘used’ price for a book. For the humanities and English especially, a current edition of a required book is almost never necessary … Moby Dick is Moby Dick.” 

If a syllabus does call for a new edition of a textbook, Bird has found that most professors are happy to accommodate their students who want to save money by buying a cheaper, older edition. Plus, you can always e-mail the professor before the semester begins to ask if your old edition is OK.

Go online
“I spent more than $400 on books during my first semester in college. I was even more disappointed when the bookstore bought them back for half the price I paid or less. One book had only been opened twice and still looked brand new,” says Rachel Esterline, a 2010 graduate of Central Michigan University ( Luckily, there are ways around paying lots of money for books you don’t know how much you’ll use., Barnes and Noble’s online store, eBay and craigslist are all good sources to buy used textbooks at extreme discounts; plus, all of these online retailers let users list their own used books. You’ll pay the website and the textbooks are sent right to you. 

Rental textbooks and loaned textbooks
Websites such as, and allow you to rent textbooks. Or what if you don’t want to pay anything to use textbooks for the semester Dominic Palvisak, a 2010 grad of the University of Florida (, found most of the books he needed at the public library. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Think again. “Class books at the university library were often checked out before the semester began and continually renewed throughout the term, however, fellow students would not utilize the local branches,” Palvisak says.

Share the deals
If you find an amazing deal for a required class textbook and you have the money, buy all the copies available! Then, e-mail your professor and let him or her know that you have extra copies of the book and you’ll sell them for far less than the campus bookstore’s “used” price. If you can’t flip the books, you can sell them on, a hub where students can sell (and buy) used books. Then, you can put all your savings and earnings toward next semester’s books … or a rainy day at the mall. 

Liz Funk is the New York-based author of Supergirls Speak Out, a non-fiction look at the lives of overachieving girls in high school and college. 


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