Where To Get Cheap Textbooks For College

Where To Get Cheap Textbooks For College

Where To Get Cheap Textbooks For College

Published August 2, 2019 | Last Updated December 18th, 2023 at 07:48 pm

Where To Get Cheap Textbooks For College

The price tags on college textbooks are rising just as fast as tuition costs.

For a single course, a student may spend over $300 on required reading materials, yet only use the book for one semester.

But because many courses do not require students to have a new copy of the text, students’ preference for cost-efficient alternatives has given rise to the growing market for used college textbooks.

This increased demand has motivated many book suppliers to offer used textbook and rental services, leaving college students with an array of options.

How to Find Cheap Textbooks

Visit College Bookstores

Most university bookstores sell new and used textbooks, in addition to providing semester-long rental services.

Renting a textbook from the bookstore is the cheapest option, but as with any rented or borrowed textbook, students do not have the option of writing in the margin or taking notes.

The used textbooks are in good or like-new condition, so the prices on used books may be higher than elsewhere.

Additionally, students who have just completed a course and have a textbook in good condition can sell the textbook back to the bookstore and receive compensation to put towards next semester’s textbooks.

Check Out The College Libraries

College library systems have several copies of most course textbooks. If borrowing from the library system, reserve the textbook before the start of the semester to ensure access to the book.

Many college libraries are part of an inter-library system, so if the school does not have the book, it can be requested from another college.

Use Social Media To Find Cheap College Textbooks

Social media sites, such as Facebook, offer various means of procuring textbooks.

In addition to Facebook’s expanding Marketplace feature where users can buy and sell items in their communities, students can enter their student email address into their college’s Facebook network and gain access to various school-specific buy and sell groups for textbooks.

You may find the best prices at the end of the semester, when students want to sell their textbooks before they pack up and leave for break.

The prices vary from seller to seller, but are likely lower in price than used textbooks from bookstores.

The only caveat is that you make sure the edition the student may be selling is the one you will need.

Online Textbook Vendors

Online vendors like Chegg Books offer an array of textbooks in various conditions and price ranges, with the option to buy and rent at up to 90% off.

Chegg allows renters to highlight in their textbook, but refrain from writing, and provides free shipping on orders over $50.

College Textbook Formats Vary In Price

Textbook companies offer textbooks in various formats that are more cost efficient than bound, hardback textbooks.

Paperback textbooks are cheaper, but are a less common textbook format.

Loose-leaf editions are three-hole-punched so they can be placed in a binder, and are often more than half the price of bound editions.

Additionally, many companies offer digital versions of their publications that can be read on a tablet or computer, and are often cheaper than loose-leaf editions. It is also important to consider whether a course requires students to have the newest editions of textbooks, as older editions drop in price over time.

Resources To Price Compare College Textbooks

There are various free websites that allow students to enter the textbook’s ISBN number and generate a list of price comparisons from various online book vendors.

Keep in mind, however, that book comparison sites don’t often track every possible outlet through which you can find a book.

This is a good place for students to start their research. Textsurf.com offers both price comparison as well as price quotes for students who are interested in selling their old textbooks.

SluggBooks.com also offers this service, in addition to a feature that allows students to compare prices of multiple books at the same time, as well as tips for saving money on online access code bundles.

Additional suggestions from members of our Paying For College 101 Facebook group:

For purchasing college textbooks, check out Abe Books.

Check the Gates Foundation Open Stax for access to free openly sourced college textbooks.

One parent in the group cautions,

“Double check with the professor that the textbook is actually needed.

My daughter had a class or two where the professor used online text, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts – just because the book is listed for the class does not 100% mean they need it.”


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Top 10 Books about College Admissions

Colleges That Change Lives: The List of 44, Comparisons, and How to Choose

Three Advantages to Attending Community College Before a Four-Year School




In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

6 Types of Insurance for College Students and How to Save on Them

College Life

6 Types of Insurance for College Students and How to Save on Them

Navigating insurance options is essential for college students to protect their health, belongings, and finances. However, many people aren’t aware...

How To Survive Senior Year, From Parents Who’ve Been There


How To Survive Senior Year, From Parents Who’ve Been There

Senior year of high school is stressful for everyone — parents, students, and even the admin high school staff. It’s...

Complete Guide to Paying for College: Strategies & Tips


Complete Guide to Paying for College: Strategies & Tips

Many families use student loans as the primary way to pay for college. Fortunately, students have various funding options that...

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore R2C Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.