How to Save Big on College Textbooks

The cost of higher education has been on an upward trajectory for many years. But it’s not just the runaway tuition that has been causing so many to go deep into debt. The cost of the required textbooks is also out of control.

It’s not unusual for college textbooks to cost well over $100 each with the total book tab per semester topping out at over $1,000. Such is life as a college student, right?

Not necessarily. There are two simple strategies you can use to dramatically lower the cost of textbooks. These strategies are very easy to implement and can save you thousands over the course of earning your degree.

But before we dive into the strategies, it’s important to understand something…

The College Bookstore is Not Your Friend

a book from the shelf is being taken out

School bookstores exist to make money. It’s all about turning a profit for the school. They aren’t there for your convenience, and they aren’t looking out for you, either. If they were, they would tell you to get your books someplace else to save money.

Since school bookstores exist to make money, you can be assured that they are going to charge top dollar for the books and other merchandise they sell. And not only that, when you resell your used textbooks back to them at the end of the semester, they typically give you very little money for them. The bookstores then turn around and resell your books again for as much as they can. It’s all about maximizing revenue.

If it’s best to avoid your school’s bookstore, where then do you get your books? Glad you asked…

Go Online For Big Savings

Online shopping using the tablet

The first strategy to save big on college textbooks is to buy them used online and then resell them online at the end of the semester to recoup most of your investment. There are now many websites that sell used textbooks like Amazon, Abe Books, Chegg, and many others.

These websites almost always list books for much less than your college bookstore. It’s about shopping around for the best deal.

In order to find the right books online, you’ll need some information. You will need the title, author, edition, and a special identification number known as the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for each book. Don’t count on your school’s bookstore giving you this information. Remember, they are there to sell books to turn a profit. If they sense you are trying to obtain your books somewhere else, they may refuse to give you the information.

The best way to obtain the necessary textbook information is to contact your course instructors. Be honest with them and let them know you are trying to save money by purchasing your textbooks online. Most instructors should be fine with this.

Once you have the necessary textbook information, enter the ISBN in a search engine (any good search engine will do). This will reveal many online book sellers with the exact book you need. Find the best deal and go with it.

Reselling Your Books

What do you do with your textbooks after you have completed your courses at the end of the semester? Selling them to your school’s bookstore isn’t a good option since they usually give you very little for them.

The best way to sell your books at the end of your courses is to sell them online. Amazon is the best company to do this with since they make it very easy to list your books right on their massive website. If you price your books competitively, you can count on a quick sale if you list just before the big textbook buying rush prior to the start of the new semester.

You can usually recoup most of your investment by reselling your textbooks online when your courses are over. If you use this simple strategy, textbooks no longer have to be a financial burden.

Consider Renting Instead of Buying

a college student holding many books in the library

Photo credit: anyaberkut / 123RF Stock Photo

A second strategy you can use to save big on college textbooks is to rent them instead of buying. In recent years a number of online textbook rental companies have emerged that make the process very easy. A simple Google search for “textbook rental” turns up several companies to choose from.

Although you will probably save more money by buying used online and then reselling online to recoup your investment, renting is still a great deal. Renting makes a lot of sense for those who don’t have the money to purchase books or for those who don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of reselling.

Two Simple Strategies

College textbooks are expensive if you purchase them through your school’s bookstore. But in the internet age we now live in, we have choices. We have other options. You can very easily save thousands while earning a college degree by either renting your textbooks or buying them online.