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5 Tips for Finding Cheaper Textbooks

By Alicia Geigel

When it comes to finding college textbooks, the struggle is real. At the beginning of the semester when the professor hands out the syllabus and materials you’ll need for the course, we all pray that the textbooks won’t be astronomically high- the problem is, they already are. In fact, college textbook prices have risen 1,041 percent since 1977. It all falls down to who controls the publishing and selling process, and unfortunately, publishers and even universities themselves having been raising these prices for one reason: they know students will pay up. Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition states, “They've been able to keep raising prices because students are 'captive consumers.' They have to buy whatever books they're assigned.”

As students, we don’t have to buy into the pricey textbook game, and rather can smartly control our textbook purchases so we don’t have to spend a fortune. Are you a college student in need of textbooks? Don’t have the funds to spend hundreds of dollars on books? These five tips will show you the best ways to find cheaper textbooks for the semester, saving you both money and stress!

1. Hit the Bookstore ASAP: When we first get our syllabus, there is usually a list of course materials needed for the semester, like which books will be used. Some of us like to wait until after syllabus week to snag a copy of the course textbook, but if you’re looking to get a used copy, that isn’t the way to go. Instead, get to the bookstore as soon as possible to ensure that you can get your hands on a used copy of the book. If not, other students will get the book before you, leaving you with fewer options on saving money.

2. Rent, Rent, Rent: Throughout my four years as a college student, renting textbooks has been my saving grace. Renting textbooks for class is a great way to not only save money but its also a way to avoid permanently buying a book you will never use again. Sites like Amazon and Chegg are the ones I have used the most, as their prices are typically way better than what college bookstores offer. I personally like Chegg because in most cases, it has almost any textbook you would imagine and their prices are just a tad lower than Amazon. Another great option when renting textbooks is that you can even rent e-textbooks, making it even easier to obtain your book- there’s no lugging around a big textbook and you can access it from just about any electronic device!

3. Take Note of ISBN Numbers: Professors usually will include the ISBN number of the book you will need for the course in the syllabus, and it’s not just by accident. ISBN Numbers are the way you can identify your book as well as compare prices from multiple sources and markets online. Once you get the syllabus or pop-in your campus bookstore, make note of the ISBN numbers for the new and used copies of your required course books. After that, use that to effectively compare prices online. Laura T. of Today writes, “Check prices on the Web sites of, Barnes & Noble, eBay, and To save time, comparison shopping sites such as or SwoopThat can be incredibly helpful.”

4. Check Online: Listen, I am a firm believer in the power of the internet. You can find just about anything you want and more on the internet. You’re probably pondering sarcastically, “no, really Alicia?” Yes, really. I stated earlier that renting textbooks has been my saving grace throughout college, but what I have failed to mention (which I am addressing now) is that full and free PDFs of textbooks online have been an even bigger saving grace for me. Number one, you just found your entire required textbook online for free! I mean how can you beat that? For this, just Google search your textbook name with its author and edition and “PDF” next to it to open up a whole new wonderful world for you!

5. Don’t Forget the Library: In a growing age of technology, we may look at libraries as archaic places but libraries are so incredibly useful for so many reasons, especially when it comes to course textbooks! Robert Berger of US News notes, “While your school library may not have a copy of every single textbook, it’s likely to have copies of some of them – especially fiction and non-fiction books for liberal arts classes. “ At the beginning of the semester, professors will typically have the campus library set aside copies of books for students to use for free. Take advantage of your library, because you can borrow the book for as long as you need, for no additional cost to you!

As textbook prices continue to rise, more and more college students aren’t (literally) buying into the textbook hype. According to a survey conducted by The U.S. Public Interest Research Group and referenced by Tyler Kingkade of the Huffington Post, “65 percent of college students had at some point decided against buying a college textbook due to its high price.” The majority of students have spoken and they are saying “Sayonara!” to overpriced textbooks and “Hello!” to a world of more affordable and accessible ones. Have I convinced you yet?