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Guide to Getting the Cheapest Textbooks

It’s no secret that college textbooks are expensive, and the prices are climbing higher every year. The price of textbooks has increased 812% since 1978. Had you been going to college in the seventies, you would have paid over eight times less for college textbooks than you are now. You need to develop a sound strategy for cutting the costs on these books that can be priced at hundreds of dollars each.

Learn How to Find Cheap Textbooks

Check out our ideas for saving you a bundle:


Borrowing is a tried-and-true methods for saving money on textbooks. Did one of your friends take the biology class that you signed up for next semester? Have you ever seen your roommate using their old calculus textbook as a doorstop? These books that your friends have no more use for can save you a ton of money. After you’re done with the book, you can give it back to your friend and they can resell it or lend it to another friend. Everybody wins.

The only problem with this strategy is that some classes will require newer editions of textbooks that your friends may not have. But even if you have to buy a newer textbook, there are still ways that you can save money.


There are more resources than ever for you to find and compare prices of old and cheap textbooks. See if you can secure the best deal for your books on one of these sites.

  • Amazon: Amazon is the standard for used books online simply because of their huge selection. Amazon can get you great deals on new textbooks, but for used textbooks you’re probably best off using other services. Use Amazon’s pricing as a ruler to compare the prices of other used textbook sites.
  • Chegg: Chegg is the heavy-hitter in the world of used textbooks. Not only can you search their comprehensive catalog to rent or buy the most current textbooks, you can also sell your old textbooks to Chegg, and even search for the solutions to questions in thousands of textbooks.
  • Bigwords: Bigwords is one of the best resources out there to find the absolute cheapest prices on textbooks. Many of the titles you’ll find on Bigwords will be used and in varying states of wear and tear, but they’ll also save you a ton of money.
  • eBay: Everyone knows eBay, but few people think to use it as a resource for textbooks. You’ll find that many of the textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars at your college bookstore will be sold here for a fraction of the cost.
  • Cheapest Textbooks: Cheapest Textbooks offers a huge selection at extremely competitive prices. Definitely check out this resource to get an idea of what you can save on textbooks.
  • Direct Textbook: Use Direct Textbook to compare textbook prices between the big online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This is a great resource to double check the quality of your purchases from other sellers.
  • Thrift Books: Thrift Books has a selection of over 6 million items that you can search through to find the cheapest new or used textbook. They even have a “Bargain Basement” section to find the absolute cheapest textbook out there.
  • Best Web Buys: Best Web Buys searches through its database of affordable bookstores for cheap books so you don’t have to.
  • Afford a Book: Afford a Book is another helpful site that aggregates the best book deals from around the web. Simply type in the author name, book title, or ISBN and Afford a Book will compare prices and let you shop around for the textbook that best fits your needs.
  • eCampus: eCampus primarily works in the textbook renting business, sending you as many textbooks you want for a small fee. They also have a selection of new and used textbooks that you can search for.
  • Barnes and Noble: Bookstore giant Barnes and Noble has expanded its textbook department to meet the demand for cheap textbooks. Check here for mostly new and lightly used textbooks. The prices here might be more than on other sites, but their books are also some of the highest in quality.
  • Textbooks: Low cost textbooks abound on this simply named and affordable site. Textbooks is a one-stop shop for you to buy new and used textbooks, sell back your old textbooks, or download eTextbooks if you’re tired of using physical books altogether.
  • CourseSmart: CourseSmart is recognized as an impressive resource of digital textbooks. You can download millions of eTextbooks from CourseSmart at the fraction of the price you’d pay at a typical bookstore.
  • Valore Books: Valore Books has a huge database of new and used cheap college textbooks (over 18 million titles) that you can either rent or purchase. Valore Books also buys books, should you be in the market to sell.
  • Abe Books: Abe Books brings you great deals on new and used books from around the world, using its massive database to match your query with the cheapest options out there.


One of the easiest ways to locate your textbook online is to look up its International Standard Book Number (ISBN) number. An ISBN number is basically a tagging system for booksellers, vendors, and publishers to keep track of published and circulated titles around the globe. You can find the ISBN number on the back of your textbook, above the bar code. If the textbook was published after January 1, 2007, then it has a 13-digit ISBN number. If the textbook was published before that date, then it has a 10-digit ISBN number. Keep this in mind when searching for your textbooks, particularly older titles.


Book rentals is one of the fastest growing trends in the affordable textbook industry. Cheap rental books have never been easier to come by. You simply choose the books that you want to rent from an online book renter like Chegg or Barnes and Noble and they ship them to your address in a matter of days. You pay a fee for renting the books, understanding that you will ship the books back to the service once you’re done using them. Book rental tends to be the cheapest option for getting a large quantity of textbooks, simply because you’re paying a small rental fee rather than for the textbooks themselves.


Craigslist can be a valuable tool for finding cheap textbooks in your area, but it should not be your first choice. Because there are so few checks in place for a transaction on Craigslist, there is no guarantee that you’ll get what you pay for. One rule of thumb for buying textbooks on Craigslist is to ask to see several pictures of the item before you arrange to purchase it.

Sell Your Textbook

Most sites selling new and used textbooks will also buy them back from you, but only if the textbooks meet a minimum standard of physical condition. Follow these tips to make sure you can sell your textbook after you’re done using it:

  • Refrain from marking inside the textbook if you can. This includes highlighting and underlining.
  • Don’t dog-ear the pages of your textbook or leave it open laying facedown.
  • Eat and drink away from your textbook to minimize the chances that you’ll spill something on it.
  • Store your textbook on a bookshelf on in your backpack whenever you’re done with it for the day so you don’t misplace it.