Finding the Best Deals on College Books

Post by Adam Grossman • At 6:30 pm Friday, 2 August, 2019

Grades & Academics

Finding the best deals on college books

Fall semester is closing in. As you prepare to head back to school, you can hear the distant cries of your wallet weeping. This is because even after your loans are filled out and your classes are picked, you still have to shell out personal funds to pay for books. Sure, you may try to skate the first two weeks of classes book-free until that refund check comes, but is that a chance you really want to take? Don’t be silly, of course not. It is time to cover the best sources for the required texts for your college of choice. I implore you to not take the default route and buy it from the school store. College bookstores are ruthless and will not hesitate to charge you an arm and a leg if you wish to buy your books to own.

In some instances, you may not be able to use one of these alternative routes to buy books. The situation that this usually calls for is when the professor pushes the class to purchase a book that they themselves have collaborated on or written. Unfortunately, there is no way around this and you then have to bite the proverbial bullet. In other situations many professors will often assign a book for the class and then not even touch on it throughout the semester, leaving the student(s) with purchasing a book that they didn’t even use in the class. While it’s good to be prepared, it’s always to have the opportunity to use that money elsewhere, as being a college student is not a wealthy endeavor.

One way to save is to weigh the cost of buying digital vs a physical copy. The cost of the difference between digital and print can be drastic. There’s also no reason to buy a brand new textbook, so consider looking into finding the gently used. Oftentimes students will just buy new books from the school bookstore, unaware of the cost difference. They are also unaware of the fact that publishers sell their product across different platforms to include digital and or loose-leaf binders. You could also consider buying older versions of what is assigned to the class. Textbook publishers often release new editions every few years, but the newest version can cost slightly more than the previous ones. Even though the newest textbook is recommended for the course, revisions don’t always critically change the content. Most professors will generally know how much the new content weighs over the old in previous semesters, which will save students significant amounts of money.

One thing that you may run across in the search for a deal is an ISBN. An ISBN is an acronym for International Standard Book Number. This 10 or 13-digit number identifies a specific book, an edition of a book, or a product of book-like proportions. You will come across an ISBN if you use a website or search option at the school bookstore, should they provide one. According to College, students for the 2018-19 school year spent an average of $1,240 on books and supplies. In order to keep costs low, you could also rent instead of buying. has a web tool that compares the cost of renting with owning a textbook. For example, a given textbook has a list price of $82. A used version of that book from an independent seller is $33. But then you find that it’s cheapest to get the $20 rental for 88 days from Amazon.

The cost of college textbooks is always on the rise, but now that there are more options students have the ability to spend less. With online retailers and comparison sites at your fingertips, the options to save are endless. Odds are, you’re probably going to sell your college textbooks at the end of the semester. Which is why you should buy books with the intention of reselling to save the most money in the long run. Buying used books and reselling them when you’re done with them is an excellent way to lower upfront costs and get cash back in your pocket. If it’s a common textbook or is used every semester, there’s a higher likelihood of reselling as it stays at its current value. If a newer edition of the book is being released in the current year, then you lose value. You can also resell textbooks to the websites that you buy them from.

You’re probably already familiar with websites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Consider one or more of these websites when you start your next search for college textbooks.

AbeBooks – AbeBooks is a website with a wide database of textbook sellers for deep discounts, up to 75% on retail prices. Their website has an option to search by ISBN, as mentioned earlier. This website has been around for a long time, and they have consistently provided value to their buyers. In some cities, Abebooks partners with local sellers in order to pool resources and give you a better price. They also have good deals if you’re looking for an international edition. With fast shipping and decent return policies, AbeBooks guarantees a 30-day return policy on purchased books.

Amazon – Amazon has one of the largest selections for college textbooks with a wide selection of sellers. Amazon also offers options to purchase, sell, and rent textbooks at a discounted price. Once the course is over, you can sell those books back to Amazon. If you are Prime eligible, items will ship to you faster. Be sure to take advantage of Prime Student, which is Prime at a discounted price with many of the same perks. Amazon is the current leader in textbook sales with a top-notch marketplace.

Barnes & Noble – One of the last remaining physical book retailers. What they don’t carry in their store can be found on their website. They offer book rentals and a buyback program for when you’re done with your book. You can save 90% off the cover price on textbooks with free shipping for orders over $25. – Around since the late 90s, and the go-to resource for all things textbooks. offers an option to buy, rent, or sell textbooks, offering 60% in savings against competitors. also offers a web tool that compares the cost of renting with owning a textbook. A feature of their website includes calculations based on discounts, coupons, promotions, shipping costs, and sales tax in order to break down the cost. Their coupons are exclusive to their website, where they offer incentives to buy and sell with them.

Chegg – a website offering competitive prices with a large selection of book editions. With discounts up to 90% and prices that are lower than your campus bookstore. Chegg’s website allows you to search via title, author or ISBN number, also offering you an eBook version, where available. You also get free access to the electronic version of your textbook while the physical copy ships to you. Amazon also offers this but it’s less common and only on certain titles.  Chegg also features local deals and discounts with retailers within your location.

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