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College Planning

5 tips for saving money on college textbooks

The cost of textbooks can quickly add up each semester. There are several measures you could explore to reduce costs, such as buying used books, selling and renting.

According to the College Board, the costs of textbooks and supplies can tally up to about $1,200-$1,300 per academic year. Don’t place yourself at the mercy of a $200 textbook. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for curbing the costs college planning and book-buying.

Skip the campus bookstore and buy second hand

Many a freshman student has made the mistake of blithely strolling into the campus bookstore at the beginning of their first semester, and paying full retail for their required texts without considering alternative options. The same students are usually happy to stroll back in at the end of the academic year and sell those books back to the bookstore for the campus’ standard buy-back rate. Odds are, there are better options for both buying and reselling. In any case, you can save big by purchasing used textbooks instead of new. Don’t be afraid to invest in a slightly older edition of your textbook either. Often the changes between editions are usually pretty minute.

Your used college textbooks still have value. 

If you’ve made the rookie mistake described above, you probably noticed that the cash you received from the campus bookstore for your gently used textbooks was only a small fraction of the price you paid up front. Don’t put yourself at their mercy. Savvy students all over the country are reselling their college textbooks on sites like, or taking advantage of buyback programs from retailers such as Barnes & Noble, or textbook exclusive book vendors such as TextbookRush or

Seek out classes and professors that use open-source textbooks

Open-source textbooks are free textbooks made available to all students, teachers, and members of the general public via e-book, audio format, or print edition. Several public university coalitions in states like California, Massachusetts, and Maryland are hard at work developing their own open-source textbook library, and many professors have already made the switch to open source textbooks at universities across the nation. (Yes, some of your professors and university administrators are interested in saving you money!)

Consider renting textbooks or opting for the digital versions

Were you aware that you could rent textbooks instead of buying them? Or that you could download digital versions for your tablet or e-reader? Renting your textbooks only costs a small fraction of what it does to buy, and all of the retailers we mentioned above now have extensive options for textbook rentals. It’s important to note that once your rental period is over, you’ll be responsible for returning the book, and if you don’t, you may end up paying full retail for it anyway. If you purchase a digital version, your license for the digital download may expire after a year.

Don’t procrastinate, obtain your books ASAP

While it’s important to thoroughly investigate all your options for buying or renting textbooks, you usually only have a small window of time to do so from the time you’re assigned the books until the time you’re expected to produce them in class. Avoid additional expenses like rush shipping by purchasing or renting your books in a timely manner. And don’t forget to tap your network of friends and fellow classmates - someone may be willing to lend you their textbook for the semester in exchange for a similar favor in semesters to come.

Read more about paying for college, applying for student loans.




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