5 Tools to Help You Find the Cheapest Textbooks

Students spend thousands on textbooks. It doesn’t matter what field you’re studying. Literature? You’ve got to buy thirty-five novels for every class. Science or math major? Textbooks for these classes routinely cost upwards of $100 or more. But there are ways to get ahead of the curve on textbooks, and great ways to save money. Here’s a look at a few of the sites you can use to buy books on the cheap.

There are a few things to remember when buying textbooks from places other than your college or university bookstore. By buying elsewhere, you can save massive amounts. But, you lose the sure bet of buying exactly the right edition. The safest way to avoid this problem is to head to the campus bookstore and jot down the ISBN numbers (available on the bar code) for every book in all of your classes. Do this ahead of time if you can, this way you don’t have to worry about falling behind while you wait for texts to arrive in the mail. Armed with these numbers, start shopping around these sites for the best prices.

Textbooks.com

Google “textbooks,” and you’re bound to find this site at the top of the search results. In addition to tons of offerings on new and used titles, Textbooks.com also allows you to rent texts. In this scenario, you pay a flat fee to hold onto the book for the length of the semester, and then return the book. For example, one mathematics text sells on the site for around $100 new, $71 used, and a four-month rental for $45.

Amazon

Among the biggest names in online book retailers, Amazon sells textbooks at up to 30% off new titles and 90% off used titles. Amazon Student now offers 6 months of free shipping, and then 50% off Prime membership. With Prime, students can get free shipping as well as unlimited instant streaming on over 40,000 movies and TV episodes, and access to free Kindle books.

Barnes and Noble

A huge name in both brick and mortar book shops and online retail, Barnes and Noble also sells college texts at discounts. They also buy and rent textbooks.

Half.com

Half.com is an eBay sister site. Instead of auctions, sellers offer up their items at a flat rate. You can find all manner of media and other items for sale on Half.com: CDs, DVDs, and textbooks.

Chegg.com

This relative newcomer to the online textbook market focuses on rentals. Chegg boast savings of around 70% when compared to buying new.

Search Tool

There is also a great search tool on the blog, My Next College, that allows you to search for textbooks by ISBN, Author, Title, or Keyword. The search results list dozens of places to buy the book along with the price, which makes comparison shopping a snap. You can find the search tool here.

When considering rental programs, make sure you’re using an apt comparison. Rather than comparing the rental price against the new or used price, compare it against that price minus the average buyback amount. In the Textbooks.com example above, a rental seems like a bargain. But, if you can buy the book used for $71 and sell it yourself for a similar amount, you’d wind up $26 in the hole by renting the textbook.

When it comes time to sell your books back at semester’s end, don’t feel any loyalty to the store you bought the book from. See which retailers are offering top dollar for your titles. And, remember that you’ll probably get the best prices from sites where you are the direct seller to the buyer, such as Half.com or the Amazon marketplace. These sites make their money from sales fees, rather than markup. Other sites have to buy the book from you at a low enough amount to leave room to sell them at a profit.

Also, don’t disregard your campus bookstore as a place to sell your books back. This writer once bought a mathematics textbook for $40 and sold it back to the campus bookstore for over $60. (Yes, you read right: sometimes you can actually make money selling your books back.) Just make sure you remove any price tags from other stores. Otherwise, the sell-back can get awkward.

There are also ways around getting books for certain classes. You may be able to find novels and literary works at libraries, and your friends might be able to loan you books they decided to hold onto. Don’t be afraid to give these methods a try.  Regardless of where you buy and sell books, remember the golden rule of saving: shop around. Check multiple sellers for the book you want, and find the cheapest price. Sell the book to the store that will offer the most for it. That’s the surest way to keep your book costs under budget.

Published or Updated: September 2, 2014
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Blaser says:

    You forgot to mention Textbookstop.com! They offer the service to rent textbooks as well, and often times feature lower prices than Chegg.

  2. Jane Sanders says:

    I buy most of my books from Half.com. This saves me tons of money. When I introduced this site to my mom, she got hooked. She liked it better than Ebay since the prices are fixed.

  3. adama says:

    Textbookfind is a text book comparison search website. It quickly lets you can find your books by your school, subject and class. They also list the school bookstore’s price and automatically compare to both Amazon (new & used) and Chegg (for rentals).

    They have support for about 150 schools. Check it out.

  4. Steve Hiller says:

    Textbookrecycling is a great site for selling books back if you want to get paid quickly- I like these guys because they pay high prices (at least for textbooks) and they pay for shipping. They also buy some of those books that the bookstore won’t give you anything for even though you just bought it 3 months ago! I think you can buy books from them too.

  5. Green says:

    Try selling your textbooks on GreenTextbooks they are an awesome site and all ways get me the most money for my textbooks. Try it you don’t got anything to lose, just enter the ISBN numbers in and see how much you can get for it.

  6. John Coleman says:

    Another idea is to compare prices instantly from all the major sellers — this includes rentals and for sale. For example Affordabook instantly searches the cheapest books on the web.

  7. Hesta says:

    I’ve had great luck selling my textbooks to Mybookcart. They have never given me any trouble and they pay fast.

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