A Guide To Buying College Textbooks

Textbooks in college- what’s the deal with them? You’ll find such differing opinions when it comes to textbooks in college. Some will say you absolutely need them, others will say don’t bother buying them. Here’s a quick rundown on college textbooks and the different options you have! 

My first piece of advice is to wait until the second or third week of school to buy textbooks, if possible. This way you’ll know for sure that you’ll not only stay in the class, but you can also get a feel for whether or not you need the textbook. Take a look through all of your syllabi and see which assignments you’ll need the book for. Once you’ve weeded out your classes to know which you’re staying in and which you’re dropping, and know if you need the textbooks or not, you’ll have a better idea of how to obtain them. 

There are different types of textbooks you can find at a school: 

Regular books that you can purchase anywhere.

Books specific to the school, but can be used for general classes, even if taught by different professors. Typically these are only found in the school’s bookstore. 

Textbooks written by the professor specifically for that class only. These typically are a more “workbook” or interactive textbook, and only found new in the bookstore. 

E-books for all of the above, if available.

Person Holding Stack of Books

The different ways to purchase them: 

New and from the bookstore (typically the most expensive way to buy books)

Used and from the bookstore (saves money, but there are also cheaper ways) 

Rented, either from the bookstore if they allow this option, or from a service such as Chegg, Thriftbooks, or Knetbooks. 

Purchase used from Amazon, other textbook online services, or on local classified pages. Many colleges will have a Facebook page to buy/sell textbooks, too. 

Using the school bookstore isn’t the end-all for buying college textbooks! Look online to find books where you can. There are so many companies out there that realize how expensive college is and want to cut you a deal where they can. Look into these companies! 

A few other tips:

Try to rent or buy used when you can. It saves money, and saves the environment! Win, win.

If it’s a class that is specific to your field of study and seems like one you may want to reference later in life, try to buy it used instead of renting so you don’t have to return it later. 

Another great way to save money is to split the cost of a textbook with a friend or roommate that is attending the same class as you,  as long as it can easily work out for both of you to use it for readings and assignments. 

There are specific scholarships out there too that will fund your textbook needs. Search for those and apply. Other scholarships can go towards any school expenses, also including textbooks. 

Textbooks don’t have to break you financially! There are ways to save money and be smart financially if you’re willing to put in a little time and research. 

What is your favorite way to find textbooks?