The Ultimate Guide to Buying Cheap Textbooks for College

College isn’t just about the fees — textbooks can make or break you. Luckily, I’m here to give you the inside scoop on where to buy cheap textbooks for college.

As a college student into the second half of her first year, I can’t help but think about my summer-self, who was worried about every detail of starting college: making friends, enrolling in classes, picking out my clothes every day (as I would no longer be wearing uniform that I was accustomed to in high school), and yes, the freshman 15.

Unfortunately, one of the most important things I forgot to worry about was the price of textbooks. (And money has been a big issue for me in affording college.) It’s not that I didn't save money to buy textbooks, but I didn’t know how much I would be spending, or how much a college textbook costs. Coming from a public high school, I received all my textbooks for free. Talk about cheap textbooks!

Once I signed up for my four classes for the fall semester, boy was I blown away!

I panicked, as my syllabi often required not just one book, but two. I know I sound a bit dramatic here, but the numbers started to pile up.

If you want to feel my pain, have a quick look at the names and prices in my bookstore of the books that I was required to buy last semester:

  • Lovik, Thomas A., J. Douglas Guy and Monika Chavez: Vorsprung. An Introduction to the German Language and Culture for Communication (Third Edition). $243.00
  • Zorach, Cecile and Charlotte Melin: English Grammar for Students of German. $21.30
  • Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy: The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Shorter Fifth Edition). $74.70
  • Amitav Ghosh: In an Antique Land. $16.00
  • Don Kulick: Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes. $26.70

These were not cheap textbooks. As a result, I turned to upperclassmen around me and did some research on Google and Pinterest. Below are some resources that I highly recommend to help you save money on college textbooks this year.

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Textbook Resources to Help You Save Money

  • The best resource I have found is They have textbooks for as little as under $10. (I know what you're thinking about.. All the endless things you can buy with that extra cash saved!) So not only can you save up to 90 percent with this site but they also offer free shipping!
  • On Chegg, you can simply look up the title of your textbooks and either buy or rent them for prices that are lower than what you would pay at your school’s bookstore. Chegg even lets you know how much money you are saving, which will make you feel like a boss.
  • What is great about BookRenter is that it offers free shipping both ways and makes returning your books easy. Trust me, this does not sound important now, but when you are in the last two weeks of the semester, you have so many other things to worry about than figuring out how to return your textbooks to avoid any fees for overdue books.
  • Do you like popping tags? Not only can you purchase cheap textbooks and novels at very low prices but Thriftbooks often offers amazing coupons and codes for you to redeem when shopping.
  • I’ve never realized how resourceful Amazon was, not only getting the textbooks I needed at affordable prices, but how handy it was when I was in need of a textbook FAST. There are great exclusive deals and promotions for students, including Amazon Student Prime.
  • StudentRate Textbooks is an awesome search engine that allows you to compare the price of textbooks across so many different online sellers. Just type in the textbooks that you need, and dozens of websites will come up with the prices that the textbook is going for, either for buying or renting!
  • What I like about Packback is that like Student Rate, you can do a price comparison but also try one-day e-textbook rentals, as well as Semester e-rentals.

Instead of having to buy an expensive textbook for the entire semester, consider just renting one for $5 or less whenever you need it for a night of studying.

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Here is a great example of the savings that were available to me on my German textbook:


My college’s bookstore price: $243.00 $7.98

Amazon: $57.38 $72.99 $31.12 (to rent for 125 days)

Thriftbooks: $6.19 (Used and in acceptable condition. But still, woah!)

Amazon: $57.38 $43.75

Now that you’ve had a gander at some helpful websites that will not burn a hole in your pocket when it comes to finding cheap textbooks, I’d just like to show you what I saved.

English Grammar For  German Students

My college’s bookstore price: $21.30

How much I got it for on Amazon: $11.98

 The Norton Anthology of Poetry

My college’s bookstore price: $74.70

How much I got it for on Amazon: $35.89


My college’s bookstore price: ($16.00) ($26.70)

How much I got it for on Amazon: ($2.00) ($24.16)

Besides the online resources that I have offered, please keep in mind that there may be cash-saving opportunities around you!

  • Check out what textbooks are available at your school’s library, or what is on reserve to borrow
  • Turn to any upperclassmen who have taken the same classes in the past, and find out if they could lend you any textbooks that they might have kept
  • Apply to scholarships that cover the price of textbooks. If you did not know already, yes, there are college textbook scholarships!

So get cracking and happy cheap textbook hunting!

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