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Where to Buy College Textbooks?

College
Written by Annika World
Updated: June 12, 2024
10 min read
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Pathward®.

As any college student knows, new and used textbooks can be a significant expense, with renting textbooks sometimes costing as much money as purchasing them. With the rising costs of higher education, it's essential to find the best deals on college textbooks. In this guide, we will explore various options for where to buy college textbooks, from buying new or used books to going digital. Let's dive in and discover how to find the best prices on college textbooks.

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Buying New Textbooks

When it comes to purchasing new textbooks, there are both pros and cons to consider. On one hand, new college books are often pristine and free of markings, providing a fresh start. However, the primary drawback is the high price tag associated with new books.

Buying new textbooks can be advantageous if your course relies heavily on the features of the latest edition. New textbooks often include updated information and supplementary materials like homework and practice questions, ensuring you have the most accurate and relevant content. This can be particularly beneficial in science and technology subjects, where new discoveries and advancements are constantly being made. By having the latest edition, you can stay up-to-date with the most current knowledge in your field of study.

However, keep in mind that new textbooks can be significantly more expensive, sometimes costing over $200 per book. If the changes between editions are minimal or if the course materials are not heavily reliant on the textbook, purchasing a used textbook or exploring other cheaper alternatives is a more practical choice.

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Where to Buy New Textbooks

If you decide to buy new college textbooks, there are a few reputable places to consider. Many college bookstores have partnerships with publishers and offer competitive prices. These bookstores often have a wide selection of new textbooks available, making it easy to find the required materials for their courses. Additionally, the staff at college bookstores can provide guidance and recommendations based on the professors' syllabi, ensuring that you purchase the correct editions and versions.

Another popular option for buying new college textbooks is through online retailers. Amazon offers a vast array of options and will likely carry the exact edition of any college book you need, making it a go-to platform for many. The convenience of online shopping allows you to compare prices, read reviews, and make informed decisions before you purchase textbooks.

Companies such as Chegg and Barnes & Noble offer new textbooks and can be excellent resources for finding the books you need at a reasonable price. Chegg, in particular, specializes in textbook rentals, offering flexible rental periods and affordable rates. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, has a vast network of physical stores, making it convenient for those who prefer to browse in person instead of buying textbooks online.

Before you buy textbooks online, it's crucial to explore different options and compare prices to ensure you get the best deal. Consider reaching out to upperclassmen or fellow students who have taken the same courses to see if they have any old books they are willing to sell or lend. By being resourceful and proactive, you can save money while still obtaining the necessary materials for your studies.

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Rent Books Online

Another popular alternative to purchasing new books is to rent textbooks. This allows you to use the book for the duration of your course and return it once you are finished. Rental is an excellent choice for subjects that you won't take future coursework in.

When Textbook Rental Makes Sense

It makes sense to rent textbooks when you anticipate using the book for a short period or when the book's resale value is low. Some courses require textbooks that are only needed for a semester, making renting a cheaper option. Additionally, renting can provide flexibility and convenience, especially if you prefer not to retain physical copies of your books.

When you rent a textbook, you don't have to worry about finding a buyer for it once you're done with the course. This can save you time and effort, as well as eliminate the stress of trying to sell it at a reasonable price. You also avoid the hassle of storing and maintaining a large collection of books, which can take up valuable space in your home or dorm room.

Textbook rentals are often significantly cheaper than buying a new one, especially if you're able to find a good deal or take advantage of promotional offers. This can be particularly beneficial for students who are on a tight budget or who are looking to cut down on their educational expenses.

Top Textbook Rental Services

Numerous textbook rental services are available to those seeking affordable options. Companies like Chegg, Amazon, and CampusBookRentals offer a wide range of textbooks for rent, often at a fraction of the price of buying new. These services typically allow you to highlight and take notes, offering a similar experience to owning the book outright. Many services also offer free shipping.

When choosing a textbook rental service, it's important to consider factors such as the selection of available books, the rental prices, and the rental period options. Some services may have a limited selection of textbooks, while others may offer a large selection. Additionally, the rental prices can vary between different services, so it's worth comparing prices to ensure you're getting the best deal.

Some services may provide access to supplementary online resources or study materials, which can enhance your learning experience. Others may offer flexible rental periods, allowing you to extend the rental if needed or return the book early without penalty. It is essential to check the rental website for the specifics of the return policy and if you have to cover return shipping costs yourself or if free shipping is available. Also, check the website for any restrictions on highlighting and note-taking.

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How to Save on College Textbooks

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Buy Used Books

If you prefer physical textbooks, there are a range of places in-person and online where you can buy cheap textbooks. College students are all too familiar with the hefty price tags that come with new textbooks. However, by opting for used books, especially those from previous editions, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars each semester. This extra money can be used for other essential expenses, such as tuition fees, housing, or even a well-deserved treat after a long week of studying.

Your professor might even recommend purchasing used older editions of the textbook if they are similar enough to the most recent edition. It is helpful to ask your professor at the start of the semester if an older edition is an appropriate substitute.

Aside from the financial advantage, used textbooks may already contain helpful notes and highlights from previous years. These annotations can provide additional insights and perspectives on the subject matter. It's like having a study buddy who has already navigated through the pages, highlighting key concepts and sharing their own understanding of the material. This added layer of knowledge can be especially valuable when tackling complex topics or preparing for exams.

Reliable Sources for Used Textbooks

One of the most convenient options is to visit your college bookstore. Your campus bookstore may offer used copies alongside new ones, giving you some opportunity to compare costs and choose the best price. Plus, oftentimes, you can use scholarship funds to pay for books at the college bookstore.

If you prefer to buy textbooks digitally, there are numerous online marketplaces that specialize in used textbooks. Sites like AbeBooks and eBay offer a vast selection of used textbooks from various sellers, with the option to sort by shipping price. These platforms often provide detailed descriptions and condition ratings, allowing you to make an informed choice from the selection of cheap textbooks. Additionally, you can read reviews from other buyers to ensure a positive purchasing experience.

For those who want to explore multiple platforms for buying college textbooks online, websites like BookFinder and TextbookX are excellent resources. These sites aggregate listings from various online sellers, allowing you to easily compare prices and find the best deal on your used textbooks. With just a few clicks, you can save both time and money, ensuring that you get the most bang for your buck.

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Buy and Rent eBooks

With the advent of digital technology, there has been a significant increase in the availability and popularity of digital textbooks to help students save money. These electronic versions offer several advantages, including savings and portability. With electronic devices becoming a staple in college classrooms, a digital textbook offers numerous advantages over its physical counterpart.

Going digital not only saves students money but also provides them with added convenience. A digital textbook can be accessed on various devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, allowing you to study anytime and anywhere. They also eliminate the need for carrying heavy physical books, making them a more lightweight and portable option.

Moreover, digital textbooks often come with interactive features that enhance the learning experience. These features can include embedded videos, interactive quizzes, and search functions, making it easier to navigate and engage with the content. Additionally, digital textbooks can be easily updated by publishers, ensuring the most current information.

While digital textbooks offer numerous benefits, it's important to note that they may not be suitable for every student or every course. Some prefer the tactile experience of reading a physical book, and certain courses may require specific textbooks that are only available in print, especially if there are multiple editions of a book or your professor recommends older editions.

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Where to Find E-books and Digital Textbooks

If you prefer to go digital, there are numerous platforms where you can find e-books and digital textbooks. Websites like VitalSource, CourseSmart, and RedShelf offer a vast selection of electronic materials. Many publishers also provide digital versions of their textbooks directly through their websites. Your school library might also offer online access to the exact editions or older editions of a textbook. Exploring these options can help you find the digital textbooks you need at a fraction of the price.

Sell Your College Textbooks for Cash

A great way to make some extra cash is to sell your textbooks. While not all your college textbooks can be resold for a profit, you can usually recoup much of your investment by reselling your textbook on eBay for less than the cover price or to a fellow student.

If you are interested in reselling your textbooks, first, check what price different retailers are listing your book for on the site you plan to use. Offering lower costs than other sellers and bonuses like free shipping or a sale will entice other students to buy your book. You can save the most money by buying a used textbook in good condition and reselling it at a lower price than most textbook stores.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Buying College Textbooks

Why are textbooks so expensive?

According to a recent report by the Student Public Interest Groups, college textbook prices have increased by 73% since 2006, which is more than four times the rate of inflation. One of the main causes of the cost increase is the frequent release of new editions by publishers, which are then required by professors.

These new editions often come with updated content and features, making it harder for students to find used copies. As a result, they are forced to purchase new textbooks at higher prices. Additionally, the prevalence of access codes and online resources has further increased the overall cost. Many textbooks now come bundled with access codes that grant students access to online materials, exercises, and quizzes required for a course. While these resources can be beneficial, they also contribute to the rising price of textbooks.

How can I pay for college textbooks?

You can use scholarships and grant funds to pay for college textbooks at your university bookstore or, in some cases, at third-party websites. Using Bold.org, you can hone your scholarship research to those most relevant to your goals and background by searching for scholarships by major or by state, age, and demographic information.

How can I save money in college?

Saving money in college is a matter of developing healthy financial habits, designing a budget that meets your specific needs, and sticking to it. You can also switch to a bank account that rewards you for the regular purchases you already make.

For example, the Bold Debit Card lets you earn points* on spending and redeem them towards student loan payments or cashback.* Earn 1 Bold Point for every $2 spent across any category, and redeem 1,000 Bold Points for $10 cashback or for $15 towards your student loan payment. Sign up for the Bold Debit Card today to start saving.

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Annika World

About Annika

Annika is a talented and versatile writer and researcher. She has extensive expertise in researching and applying for scholarships and grants, as well as the process of navigating financial aid. 

As a senior at NYU, Annika is pursuing an interdisciplinary degree at the intersection of film, psychology, philosophy, writing, and visual arts, with a minor in film production. During her time at NYU, she completed a number of interdisciplinary research projects and is currently working on her thesis film.

Experience

Through Annika’s coursework, she has engaged in a number of writing workshops and intensive seminars, honing her writing craft under the guidance of acclaimed authors and poets. Within the entertainment industry, she has fulfilled a range of diverse roles, working in film and TV development, production and distribution, sustainability consulting, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She also has experience working in educational services, tutoring, and libraries.

Since joining the Bold.org team in 2023 as a Content Writer, Annika has utilized her extensive background as a scholarship recipient to guide others through the complexities of financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Her expertise also extends to securing internships in the creative arts and entertainment fields.

Motivated by a desire to make a meaningful impact, Annika's work at Bold.org is driven by her passion for assisting fellow students and combatting the student debt crisis. Through her compelling writing and advocacy for educational and financial empowerment, Annika is dedicated to uncovering funding opportunities and providing students with the resources they need.

Annika is no longer with the Bold.org Writing Team, but we continue to value and appreciate her contributions.

Quote from Annika

“Knowledge is power.”

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