Everyone knows that college is expensive. One of the biggest costs of college that no one talks about until you get to campus is the cost of textbooks and class materials. For each class, and you’ll take an average of five a semester, you may need anywhere from one to fifteen books. This can add up to a pretty penny quite quickly. As an English major, it is not uncommon for me to buy three dozen novels a semester. While cheaper than science textbooks, still sets my back account back. As a rising senior though, I’m estimating that I’ll spend less than $100 total for books for my seven classes. I’ve finally figured out on how to save big buck on textbooks. Today, I’m going to let you in on my secrets… and guess what? They are all legal.

1) Buy older editions when possible

I learned from the few science courses I took in college that they would update the textbook every year with 500 new words. This would allow them to force you to buy this new edition for $200.  My teachers, luckily, were pretty understanding that no one wanted to shell that out for a textbook. They advised us that the previous edition would do just fine. Plus, it was a quarter of the price. Look into using older or different editions of textbooks and class materials whenever possible. Many teachers will provide exact pages or chapters to read, which may change between editions, but will usually work with you to make sure you stay on track.

2) Shop used

Most campus bookstores offer their selection of class books both new and used, providing options for everyone. Always be discerning when you’re shopping there. Check to see what condition the “used” books are in. Often, they’re nearly brand new, but since they’ve been bought and returned, the bookstore must sell them as used. You could save up to 75% just by accepting a textbook with a few highlighter marks in it. Shopping used online gets a bit trickier, because you can’t see the condition for yourself and will need to confirm that it is the right edition. If you’re brave and willing to risk it, it is a good option. Be sure to factor in shipping to determine if a book online truly is cheaper than the bookstore’s copy.

3) Buy from your friends and peers

Unless the course you’re shopping for is brand new, there are dozens or more of your peers that have already taken the class and bought the books. Likely, they don’t want those textbooks taking up space in their room anymore. Check to see if your university has a Buy/Sale/Trade or Textbook Exchange Facebook group that you can browse for your textbooks. You can also post your own “In Search Of” listing to draw out people who have the books but haven’t listed them themselves.

4) Utilize your libraries

You go to the library for supplemental material, so why not the main event? Check your school and local public library for editions of the books you’re looking for. This is perfect for English and Literature classes, because every college library is going to have a copy of Price of Salt or Beloved, and usually more than one. You’ll save money, because library access is free with your tuition. You’ll get to utilize your school’s resources more. If your particular college doesn’t have the book you need, you might be able to request it through an Interlibrary Loan. Talk to your library staff about this option that allows you to borrow books from all over the country, for free.

5) Look at local bookstores

I love shopping at local used bookstores for my personal reads, but while I was there one day, I stumbled across several textbooks and other class material and snatched them up for a fraction of what the campus bookstore was selling them for.  Many students know that the campus bookstore won’t pay good money to buy back books and would rather skip the lines and sell them or donate them to local used bookstores. You can swoop in and buy them for cheap. I got a statistics textbook for $5, as opposed to the $45 the campus bookstore wanted. Be sure to check all the relevant sections for your coursework. You might just come across some hidden gems.

6) Kindle books are cheaper

While I love a good hardcover book, they can be expensive. Often e-books are the cheaper answer. Amazon’s Kindle e-book program has the most robust coverage of books you may need for classes. Check their website to see what their Kindle books are selling for. You can do easy comparisons to used and new options both online and off. If the Kindle option is cheaper, you can download it to multiple devices, including your phone, iPad, computer, or Kindle device. Be sure that you are downloading the Kindle book for the right edition. Kindle books also allow you to highlight and make notes electronically, so don’t fret about losing your ability to annotate.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member