How to Get the Best Deal on College Textbooks

January 5, 2012
How to Get the Best Deal on Textbooks


It is no myth that college is an expensive four years of your life. After paying your semester costs for tuition and room and board, don’t forget to account for your text books. According to Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), textbook prices increased 22 percent over the last four years, which is more than four times the current rate of inflation.

This semester, don’t take out extra loans to accommodate for your necessary textbook expenses. Instead, take a look at these options to think about and outlets to check out when buying college textbooks at the absolute cheapest prices.

Cut out the Middle Man
Try posting an inquiry on Facebook to see if friends who may have recently taken a similar course have the textbook you need. Craigslist can also be effective for similar requests in your area. Also, the Student PIRG’s website, which has its own book swapping forum, allows for students to look up their university and post books they have available and search for those they will need.

Google Shopping
If you know your ISBN book number, you can enter it into the shopping section on Google. This will provide you with a vast selection of outlets from which you can buy your textbook, sorted by lowest price. One aspect to keep note of is the often steep shipping prices. Many times retailers will lower the initial cost to grab your attention but raise the shipping cost significantly. Also, as a rule of thumb – when you are looking online for your textbook, always make sure you purchase the correct edition and year it was published, in order to prevent any purchase mishaps.

E-book and Text Book Purchases
In a poll taken by 3,719 college students, 43.1% of the respondents felt that Amazon.com provided the most inexpensive textbooks. If you are the type of student who enjoys reading on an iPhone or computer, maybe you should consider purchasing an e-book this semester. In addition to traditional textbooks, Amazon offers Kindle e-books for typically a cheaper price than a printed version. Students can read these texts either on a computer, smart phone or a Kindle, although surprisingly the Kindle is not required. While the Kindle books are un-printable, students have access to margin notes and the ability to highlight text, even after the rental has expired. Similar to Amazon, Abebooks.com offers a database of new and used e-books that average around 50% off the retail textbook price.

Book Rentals
If you leave buying textbooks to the very last minute and need the books in a rush while on campus, don’t forget the college book store can be of some assistance. Instead of buying a book new or used for that matter, try checking to see if you can rent books from them. This is the cheapest way you’ll get your book from your school book store. If you find you have some time to spare, then don’t forget to compare your school’s rental prices against that of Chegg.com, a very popular textbook rental website. The Chegg discount, compared to retail prices, is anywhere from 30%-80% off, with most book rentals falling around the 50% mark. Other rental outlet options to check out are .textbookrentals.com or campusbookrentals.com.

In my personal experience, I searched long and hard for a developmental psychology text required for an upcoming class this Spring semester. The text retails at $185.65, although after some extensive seaching, I was able to find the cheapest rental price on Chegg.com for $30.00 plus $3 shipping for a 6 month rental period. Amazon.com was the runner up, offering the used book for $45 plus $3.99 shipping. There is some residual value in buying the textbook, since I may retain it for future reference or just resell it after the course is complete, but it will likely not prove cost effective to resell the used book because editions frequently get superseded.

Have any bargain experiences to share? Tell us at GradGuard about your experiences buying textbooks and let us in on some of your money saving tips. Have fun with your text book search this semester and save money while you’re at it!

Photo by LifeSupercharger

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