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7 Easy Ways to Find Cheap Textbooks for College

Find Cheap Textbooks in Used Bookstores and Online 


Textbooks are not getting cheaper, but resourceful students can still save money on required reads for their online degree. Below are seven easy ways to find cheap textbooks and beat one of the most costly college expenses.  


7 Ways to Find Cheap College Textbooks


1. Used Textbook Stores

Campus bookstores sell used books at reduced prices, but they aren’t the only game in town. Used textbook stores often spring up near colleges. Don’t live near a university? Look online, where numerous retailers also sell used textbooks.


2. Renting Textbooks

Some textbooks can be rented digitally, usually for a portion of what it’d cost to buy the book. Students purchase a key code that provides access to a digital textbook for a semester. At the end of the semester, access is revoked. This option keeps wallets heavy and backpacks light. Textbook rental is perfect for students who don’t keep their textbooks. Students can also pay a higher price for a bundle that includes the physical textbook and a code for the digital version.   Two big names that recently joined the online textbook rental community are Google Play and Amazon Student. Google Play offers textbook purchases and rentals. This service works along with an app (available on many e-readers, tablets and even smartphones) that allows students to read textbooks as well as search, annotate and highlight text. Many websites offer digital textbook rentals. Before purchasing, check customer reviews or go with retailers endorsed by cohorts or the school.  


3. Older Textbook Editions

Many textbooks are regularly revamped. When a new edition hits bookstores, older versions usually sell for pennies on the dollar. Some students find cheap textbooks by going vintage. They use older textbooks, even though additions and deletions to the material typically cause page numbers to be different than the latest edition.   Do note that frequently changing studies, such as computer science, aren’t conducive to older editions because content becomes obsolete so quickly. However, in many liberal arts courses, changes occur much more gradually—like every decade or so. Before buying an old edition, make sure online components are not required. Online components often require key codes, which expire after a set period of time. If assignments must be turned in through a digital interface, older textbook editions become useless.  


4. Library Desk Copies

Most college and university libraries reserve a copy or two of popular textbooks or expensive reference or resource tomes, like law dictionaries. Students are welcome to use these books in the library, but cannot check them out. For students who are willing to wait and can get to the library, this can be a viable option in lieu of purchasing textbooks. Also, check to see if the school has virtual textbook copies that can be accessed for free online.  


5. Library Digital Copies

College and university libraries may also subscribe to e-book databases, such as EBSCO, that provide access to digital copies of traditional books and some older textbook editions. Students can log into the database while on campus or even remotely. Some universities will also provide guest passwords to community members interested in using the school’s databases.


6. Google Books

Google Books is a library digitalization project. Google has accessed millions of library books, and has been scanning and posting them online for almost a decade. Some older textbooks are available on Google Books. This service also offers digital access to an array of classic works—perfect for literature students. Many of the books offered are completely free to read, but some books are for sale. In addition, some books are not completely scanned, so the occasional page or section may be missing.  


7. Military Library

Military service members have access to an incredibly large store of resources. The Morale, Well-Being and Recreation (MWR) libraries offers a wide array of academic databases that are chock-full of articles, e-books and other invaluable tools for college. The MWR also has digital book rentals for many popular titles, plus study guides for military and civilian professional examinations. Examination study guides tend to be incredibly costly, but this resource allows students to study for their certification examinations for free. The MWR also offers free digital audiobook rentals. Their library houses many popular titles and a variety of classic literature as well.    


About the Author: Christine Edwards is a reading teacher at a separate day school for students with emotional, behavioral and learning exceptionalities. She is also a director-at-large for the Space Coast Writer’s Guild. To view anthologies Christine’s pieces have appeared in, visit her Amazon Author Central Page. Christine loves hearing about great stories from fellow readers and authors on her blog. She earned her bachelor’s at the University of Central Florida. After graduation, Christine worked at a local community college, where she picked up insider secrets about graduating from college on the cheap.  


Image Credit: Wesley Fryer/Flickr