The Secret Behind Cutting College Textbook Costs

When it comes to planning for college, the first thing people worry about is the costs. In addition to rising tuition, students have to worry about other expenses like lodging, meal plans, and school supplies. If there are opportunities to save some cash, you might as well take advantage of them.

One of the most frustrating college expenses is textbooks. You’ll need to have multiple books for a variety of courses, and this can end up costing you hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, there are effective ways to cut college textbook costs.

Ready to learn how to reduce college textbook costs? Let’s get started.

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

Before we break down how to save money on textbooks, it’s good to understand why they cost so much in the first place. The cost of textbooks increased by 88% from 2006 to 2016. This is caused by the bundling of books with expensive software and the recurrent printing of new editions.

The college textbook industry is largely dominated by five companies that control most of the market, which also explains the overly priced books. The good news is that there is increasing demand for affordable textbook formats and alternative ways to avoid overpaying. 

Buy Used

One of the best ways to find lower college textbook prices is to purchase used books. Unless you need a rare book or the most recent edition, you can pretty much always get away with a secondhand copy.

Used textbooks are easy to find. There should be options at your school’s bookstore, but you can also look online at websites that specialize in selling college textbooks.

Be sure to pay attention to the condition of a book. There are used books that include a lot of underlining, highlighting, and notes scribbled in the margins. If this is distracting to you, look for a used book that is as clean as possible. 

You should also talk to your professor and see if you need the bonus material that comes with new books. Secondhand textbooks don’t come with the one-time access codes that might be necessary for your course. 

Get the Digital Copy

If you want to get your textbook for a lower price tag than print copies, then look at digital textbooks, also known as e-books. This option tends to have a lower price tag than its physical counterpart. Anyone with a Kindle or e-reader can get a better deal on the digital version than the print copy.

There are instances of people finding the e-book version for free. Almost any text that is public domain can be downloaded for free. 

You’ll love being able to highlight sections of the book and take notes without worrying about obscuring the text. You can also easily navigate to your notes easily; no more flipping through pages.

Rent Textbooks

Your best bet for finding affordable college textbooks is by renting. After all, you’re not likely to continue to use a textbook once you finish the course. You only need the materials during class, so there’s no reason to spend extra money buying the book. 

The better option is to rent your textbooks. There are plenty of stores that sell textbooks to students, and some have also created a rental system. There are also plenty of websites that both sell used textbooks and also offer textbook rentals.

Be sure to do the math before making the decision to rent instead of buy. You might discover that renting ends up costing as much as buying the used version. You should also check how long the rental term is, in case it isn’t the full length of the semester. 

Share Textbooks

Although this may be a little complicated to execute, you can save 50% of the cost of a textbook. All you need to do is find another student in the same course as you that doesn’t have it at the same time. Ideally, both students are taking the course during different semesters. 

After all, you don’t want to schedule everything around this textbook. It’s better if one student takes the course first and the other schedules the course for the following semester.

Get the Older Version of Texts

Publishers tend to release new editions every few years, but the newest version can be more expensive than the previous. Although the newest textbooks are recommended for the course, there are likely no major revisions. 

Professors know if the content in the new textbooks varies dramatically from the previous, so be sure to ask before making any purchases. You’ll also need to make sure that an older edition won’t cause confusion due to the different page numbers. 

Use the Library

Your local or campus library might have all of the books you need for free. 

Students that need to read literature like novels and plays are at an advantage here, but there are plenty of libraries that offer copies of the most popular textbooks.

If you plan to use the library to score some free textbooks for the semester, you’ll need to be smart about it. Be sure to read the syllabus as early as possible and place holds on the books you want to borrow. There’s a high chance that other students have the same plan as you, and there are only so many library copies of that textbook.

Cut Your College Textbook Costs

Remember that even if you manage to get as many books from rental websites or the library, there’s still a chance that you’ll need to buy at least one or two books. Fortunately, you can recoup some of those college textbook costs by selling them at the end of the term. 

Avoid buying books from your campus bookstore and try to avoid selling them back to the school store. It’s better to sell privately or through a trusted reseller. 

Getting ready for classes and need to rent some textbooks? Be sure to use Textbook Rentals to find what you need and save some extra cash.