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Where to Find Cheap Textbooks

Last updated June 30, 2022

Let's face it - college textbooks aren't cheap! They can add hundreds of dollars to your cost of attendance each semester or quarter if you're buying them from your school's bookstore for full price. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to find college textbooks for a significantly discounted price - and sometimes even free. You just need to know where to look! Here are our tips on finding the best price for college textbooks.

Note: If the course requires a software license or if the course materials are specifically packaged for your course, there’s likely no way to get around the full purchase price. Ask your instructor or check with the financial aid office to see if there is a textbook fund/grant to help.

Compare textbook prices

Don’t buy your textbooks from the first place you see! The price of books at the school bookstore is usually much more expensive than what you could find online, so shop around and compare textbook prices. We recommend starting on bigwords.com and Amazon to start.

Consider renting

Renting textbooks is a great option if you don’t want the book after the class is over. Rental prices are generally 50% (or less) cheaper than the full price. It's important to remember that you will need to return your rental books on time or else you'll be stuck with late fees! 

Look at older editions or used copies

Ask your professor if an older edition is okay to use and don’t ignore the used textbook market. Check out AmazonCampus BooksTextbook Rush, and Chegg. Keep an eye on shipping costs which can negate some of the savings from used textbook sites.

Picture of college textbooks

Visit the campus library

Visit your campus library to find out if your textbook is available to borrow or for use in-house. The demand may be high so ask if it’s a first-come, first-served process or if there is a reservation system.

Check open-source (a.k.a. free) book programs

Open-source books are e-book versions of books made available for free online for viewing and downloading. Check with your campus library to see if they have their own open-source textbook program. You can check out a few open-source textbook databases here: open.umn.edu/opentextbooks, openlibrary.org or Gutenberg.org

Ask your network and check social channels

Ask your network of friends and classmates to borrow or buy their old textbooks. Also, visit your college’s social channels for a textbook selling/buying board or forum. The best time to check these boards is right before the semester/quarter starts and after finals (if you have your book list already). 

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