How To

15 Ways To Find Cheap College Textbooks

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Christina M. Rau

Staff Writer

Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), and the chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). In her non-writing life, she teaches yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions.

A huge cost for students every semester is book buying. How about we find some cheap college textbooks to ease that financial burden?

We have a lot of ways to get our hands on some books, so here are some strategies and websites that can help.

cheap college textbooks

Buying On The Cheap

Bid on auctions or Buy It Now! Ebay has so many booksellers that you’ll find new and used textbooks, especially older editions if you can use them. Plus, you get the excitement of an auction if you’re bidding. The drawbacks are the time commitment if you do auctions and possibly long shipping times. The amount you save depends on the seller pricing.

This site sells both new and used textbooks. You can search for textbooks that have free shipping, too. They guarantee savings of 50–90%. Also helpful is their explanation of what the heck an ISBN is for those first-time online book searchers.

Better World Books

If you’re feeling charitable, Better World Books accepts used book donations to eliminate trash and resells them at a discount. For every book you buy, they donate a book to someone in need. They also offer literacy grants. 

This site has got everything, really, so it’s just another place to search for cheap college textbooks. You can search by free shipping, price range, genre, subject, and publisher, which helps to narrow down the overwhelming number of books they offer.

Well, this seems obvious. deals in new and used cheap textbooks. You can get free shipping on orders over $25. No shipping is needed if you buy something from their ebook catalog. They accept 30-day returns, which is a great option if you decide to drop a class.

Buy or Rent Cheap College Textbooks

You’ve probably heard of Amazon. Their motto for cheap college textbooks is Rent. Buy. Sell. They offer up to 90% savings for most textbooks. If you own a Kindle, some texts are available as ebooks. For hard copy books, you can choose free 2-day shipping if you sign up for Prime Student, which is 50% off regular Prime.

Chegg is another popular site that again offers up to 90% off textbook prices if you’re buying. They also offer ebooks and a huge rental program. Additionally, if you need some help with studying, you can ask a quick question or find an online tutor (it’s free for 30 minutes, and then you have to pay 50¢ a minute, so maybe go with the tutoring centers on campus).


This site has a lot of options and offers, so it might be a bit too confusing. However, here’s the overview. You can buy cheap books or ebooks. If you want to rent, they offer different prices for semesters, quarters, and shorter amounts of time. Shipping can be free both ways if your books cost more than $59. Otherwise, you need to pay a flat $3 plus 99¢ per book. But wait, there’s more! If you sign up for eWards, you get a $1 for every 3 points you earn, and you can get discount codes for like $5 off your first order. It probably gets easier to understand once you’re signed up, and the discounts seem to add up if you continue to use them and earn points.


Knetbook offers only rentals and promises up to 85% off regular pricing. Shipping is free both ways, and you can sign up for text message updates to track shipping and get due date reminders. They allow you to extend your due date, too. They also text you discount codes occasionally.

Borrow Your Textbooks

If you need a book for only a short period of time, check out the local library or campus library. Campus libraries sometimes have textbooks on reserve that you need to use in the library. These libraries might also offer ebooks in Overdrive (by Rakuten, the same company as above). Overdrive might sound familiar if you’ve been using the Libby app. That’s where you can also find Book Riot’s Reader Harder recs for when you’re done with reading for classes. Or maybe you’ve been assigned to read Frankenstein or Fahrenheit 451. Those are on the Read Harder list!

Try An Aggregator To Compare Textbook Prices

Again, this seems obvious. Allbookstores searches three dozen online bookstores for the lowest prices in buying and renting textbooks. You can also sell your college texts here.

This site compares textbook prices across 200 online bookstores. You can search for books to buy or rent, and you can sell your own books. They offer 97% savings and a free coupon search. Use their mobile app on the go. You can also create an account for double cash back and $5 DealOz Rewards.


BIGWORDS also compares textbook prices across online stores and promises 35–45% cheaper textbooks than other sites. The site can get a little overwhelming because they also do price comparisons for just about anything: barstools! nail repair! refinements!

Sign Up For A Membership

Scribd offers more than cheap college textbooks. It has a world of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, news, sheet music, articles, and other documents. Sign up for a free trial to read as many books as possible in a month. Be sure to mark your calendar to remember to cancel if you don’t want to continue—otherwise, you get charged $8.99 a month. You can cancel any time.

This site offers unlimited access to their ebook catalog. They offer a free 14-day trial for students, and then you pay £12 monthly (they’re based out of the UK). The app allows highlighting, bookmarking, and annotating. However, you can’t read anything offline.

Once the semester is over, return your rentals and hop onto any sites above to sell your books back. Also, try selling used book here. And if you want more than just text books on the cheap, check this out for all the free books.