Money Saving Alternatives To Buying College Textbooks

by Guest on December 23, 2011

Think off campus when finding cheap alternatives to the campus bookstore

If you’re a college student you already know that textbooks cost a small fortune. Textbooks can cost almost as much as tuition, according to a study from the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which shows students paying an average of $1000 or higher per year for books. However, that’s only for suckers who decide to buy their assigned reading from the campus bookstore. There are other ways to find cheap textbooks, for instance, you can buy used textbooks, photocopy textbooks or even rent your textbooks. Just let that creative student brain think outside the box—or rather outside of the campus box—and look for the following money saving alternatives to buying textbooks for college on campus…

1. Virtual libraries

Sure, cheap textbooks are great, but free textbooks are even better! Before entering the money trap that is the campus bookstore, look to the hundreds of virtual libraries that offer copies of textbooks for free online. You might not luck out on the newest editions of your assigned reading, but arts majors will be sure to find reference books and classic literature available at no cost. Just search for your required texts in e-book version and you may be able to download an older version of the books for free. You can even view them on your laptop, tablet or Smartphone. Try virtual libraries like Project Gutenberg and Google Scholar who host thousands of full textbooks that are absolutely free to readers.

2. Scan or copy print versions

Another alternative to buying full versions of texts online, is to ask your professor which chapters you will be covering in class—then tracking down another student who purchased the book and ask them if you can photocopy the assigned chapters.

3. Visit the campus library

The campus library will have copies of all the assigned textbooks for every class on campus. However, they probably only have a few copies to spare. Again, ask your professor for an assigned list of reading materials and go early to check out your textbook. If you don’t have time to finish, just scan or photocopy your borrowed version and bring it back so that someone else can do the same. If you study in the library and only need to read a few chapters, you can read the book for a couple hours each day in order to get your assigned reading completed at no cost.

4. Get an e-reader

If you don’t mind doing all of your reading on an electronic device, get an e-reader. Sure, it will cost you around $100 to $300 upfront, however, an e-reader will pay off in the long term as digital textbooks cost about half the price compared to printed textbooks in your campus bookstore. Plus, you’ll be reducing your paper waste and doing your part to go green as well.

5. Rent textbooks

A more recent phenomenon online, students can now actually rent print versions of their required textbooks. Not only are rental versions available at a fraction of the cost of new textbooks—the rental texts are shipped for less than $4.00 both ways. Check out textbook rental companies such as, and

6. Buy used textbooks

You know for every student that needs a textbook this semester, there was a student that probably still has that same textbook from last semester. Not only that, but those same students will be looking to make some money back on that textbook purchase. So post your needed textbooks on a message board, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and all over campus. Chances are there will be tons of folks willing to sell you their old textbooks for no more than beer or pizza money.

About The Author

Brenda Ortega works as both a substitute teacher and freelance writer. She loves delving into the research side of writing, which mostly focuses on educational issues. She has written for a variety of material, giving tips for students on finding cheap textbooks; to parents on saving money for your child’s education; and even hopes to help educate others with her learning enhancement-based topics.

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