How to Get Textbooks for Cheap

It is a cruel fact of life that young people have to pay an incomprehensible amount of money to attend post secondary school at a time in their lives when they can’t earn enough money in a year to cover the cost of school, let alone, life. This forces many of us to turn to government loans, like OSAP in Ontario, to get us through our education and to a point in our lives where we could actually afford to go to school. Since I, like many others in my position, don’t feel too great about taking on such a monstrous debt, I am always looking for ways to save money and have less of a loan to pay back in the end. One place you can save an impressive amount of money is on your textbooks.

If you purchase all of your textbooks at the campus bookstore, you can look forward to spending $500 – $1000 per semester. This feels a little ridiculous, unrealistic and exploitive to me, especially when it equates to the cost of my groceries for the semester. Luckily, the campus bookstore is not the only place to find your required textbooks. The following is a list of ways I have been able to save up to half the cost of my university textbooks.

Buy online. Websites like regularly stock all commonly assigned textbooks, in fact, only once have I not been able to find the book I needed at their online store. More often than not, these websites will sell the exact same textbooks as your campus store for less than what your university was going to charge you. I have seen textbooks on for half the price they were at my campus bookstore. Once ordered, your textbooks can arrive at your house in as little as two days, and the best part is, textbooks almost always have free shipping.

Buy early and buy used. It is possible to save money without leaving campus if you buy early and are able to secure a used textbook. Although professors like to adopt newer editions of textbooks as soon as they are available, you can usually get a span of at least two years where a class will have the same required textbook, and if you are lucky, your class can take place in the second year of the edition. This means that some students from the previous year will sell their book back to the bookstore, which will, in turn, sell it to you as used, for a reduced price. This is also why you should…

Ask friends, family and coworkers if they know anyone who recently took the same classes as you. This way you can avoid the middle man mark-up and purchase your used textbooks directly from another student. When taking a class with 500 other students, there is a good chance that you are less than seven degrees of separation from someone who took that same class last year. For example, I may be able to buy some books from my husband’s co-worker’s wife this year. Don’t feel bad, the student selling the textbook is probably getting a better deal doing it this way as well.

Go to class orientations. I’ve never been to an orientation that didn’t raffle off at least one textbook. Professors were students once too and they know how much books can cost.

Look for digital copies (e-books) of your textbooks. Hard copies of your textbooks are not the only option, if the class is not part of your major and you had planned to sell the textbook afterwards anyway, digital copies can be a good option. All laptops these days come with the ability to display e-books. If you plan to take all of your notes on your laptop, this option might be even better for you than the traditional hard copy. Obviously, these e-books can be sold at a fraction of the cost because they cost almost nothing to publish. My husband has had tremendous success finding digital copies of his math, physics and computer science textbooks.