Your Guide to Buying College Textbooks

In high school, your textbooks were probably handed to you the first day of school. The story is a little different in college. Once you’re seated in each of your classes that first day, staring down at all your syllabi, you might be a bit shocked at how many textbooks you’re required to purchase. Not only that, but college textbooks can be expensive—one book might cost you a couple hundred dollars!

However, the good news is that many have already gone before you and figured out some tried and true ways to save a little money in the college textbook department. You can rest assured that buying a book new at the campus bookstore isn’t the only way to get the textbooks you need. (Unless, of course, it is. Some professors write their own books or materials and will only make them available at the campus bookstore—for this, you’ll just have to bite the bullet! Sorry!) There are plenty of other ways to come by used and much less expensive versions of the literature you’ll need in order to learn.

1. Make sure you actually need the book

While your syllabus might list the book as necessary, it’s a good idea to talk with other students who have taken the class before you. Some professors treat their book list as more of a recommendation, while others are truly a necessity. Buy/sell/trade Facebook groups are a great place to find other students who’ve already taken classes you’re about to start, and former students can help you know if it’s a better idea to simply share a book with a fellow classmate or if you really need to buy your own.

2. Rent your books

Instead of buying your books, consider renting them! The prices are quite reasonable ($25-$50), and you won’t need to worry about selling your books to other students at the end of the semester. Once you’re finished with the class, you can simply ship the textbook back in the same box it came in! Take a look at Amazon’s textbook renting service. Students get 50% off of Prime Student for free, so say hello to that splendid two-day shipping. This is especially nice if you’re waiting to see if you’ll actually need to use a book or not.

Chegg is another great service to use, and chances are good they’ll have the textbook you need as they have a huge inventory. They also have fun extras like a Study Subscription, which includes step-by-step solutions for certain textbooks, and fun, free samples that come with your rentals.

3. Buy used

If you want to write in your textbook, buying used is a good idea. Depending on your school, your campus bookstore will likely carry a good allotment of used books. However, you can also shop around online and try and find the best price. Just make sure that the quality of the book is good—you don’t want the book to arrive in tatters the day before your first class! You’ll be able to turn around and (hopefully) sell your used books again online or to other students as long as your textbook is in good shape by the time you’re done with it.

4. Purchase from students who’ve gone before you

Check out the buy/sell/trade Facebook groups available through your college and see what people are selling. Or simply post a list of what you’re looking for and see if anyone has what you need. It’s important that you know the going rate for the textbooks before you buy from other students so you don’t end up paying more than you need to—you don’t want to get ripped off!

5. Sell your books as soon as possible

Nowadays, there’s a variety of different ways you can sell your textbooks after you’re done with them. One of the best ways is to sell them via a college Facebook group to students who will be taking the class the semester after you. Try and sell your textbooks right away, though, because professors often change the edition of the textbook needed for the class. If you’re unable to sell it to a fellow student at your school, try selling it on Amazon or selling it to Chegg as soon as possible.