The Cheap Textbook Hub

Over 30 Secrets To Getting Cheap Textbooks

Looking for cheap textbooks? Prices on textbooks have been soaring for years at college bookstores. Look below for more than 30 ways to get your books cheap and save money for college – to pay tuition, or whatever.

So Many Classes, So Much Money for Books

Need hundreds of dollars for your books this semester? I know, I’ve been there. You’ve got a bunch of classes, and they each have a book for over $100. What happened to cheap textbooks?

I earned a BS in engineering, and a master’s in business. Neither major is known for discount textbooks, I can assure you. So I started to get creative. How could I arrange for all my textbooks to be cheap textbooks, instead?

30 Secrets to Finding a Cheap Textbook

I came up with the list below. Many of these I have done myself, others I have heard about from friends, and even a case study of my wife's cheapest textbooks , where she saved over $150 for just one class. Either way, you can save a substantial amount of money for college using this list.

But keep it real - don't do anything unethical or that would get you in trouble. Saving a few bucks on a textbook isn't worth it, when you can use so many good ideas to save without causing a problem.


I also explain why I never keep any valuable textbook as well.

The List

1. Buy Used – the old standby. Try your favorite bookstore online,, eBay, eCampus, Phat Campus, Amazon, B&N and so on. ‘nuff said.

Students can now buy cheap college textbooks online at very affordable marketplace rates.

2. Book Exchange - Go to your on-campus book swap. Sometime I'll elaborate on this, but basically it is when typically the student body or another organization is allowed to set up a temporary store and students can sell their books to each other.

3. Buy from a friend – at a great discount.

4. Borrow from a friend I’ve used this one a dozen times. Savings : 100%. You may have to drive to get the book, though ;o)

5. Sell or rent: If you have to buy a book, after you use it you can sell or rent it to bring down the cost. Bonus! Income from the book. Read about 3 great reasons to rent here , and you can also save a ton of money. For a list of great places to sell, see my Sell-Textbook Resource List
6. Trade books with others in your major. If you can make a few friends, this will work wonders. You use it this semester, then trade with someone else next semester.

7. Temporarily borrow from a friend for a chapter or two – till yours arrives or prices online drop. For those with skittish friends.

8. Did you know you can get free books in your town and at your school? Learn how use your university or local library to get the cheapest college textbook you'll ever find, especially if you have extended library privileges. Read about my experiences with this great way to get free textbooks.

9. Reserve Library Books - your library may also reserve textbooks. You can’t check them out, but they are free to use.

10. Try Interlibrary Loan for even more free books – read all about how it works right here, and use this technique today.

11. Buy an older version – for a very cheap textbook. I did this, too. I had to talk to the professor, and it turned out fine.

12. Booksharing - team up with 1 or 2 friends & form a study group, & only buy one book. Do it for multiple classes.

13. The Related Book - Extreme strategy - buy a cheap textbook on the same subject, different author & old revision. I have bought books like this for my personal use, but not for a class - still, if you only use it as a cheap textbook reference, not for assignments, it will help keep costs down.

14. Book Hopping - Extreme strategy - Use a book from a friend one week from another friend the next (Careful - you may not have access when you need it.)

15. Prof Selection – choose a professor with cheap textbooks or fewer texts.

16. Freebies - thousands of books are now in the public domain - could you use a free book as your text? Free textbook - online several companies offer free textbook access. is yours one of these? Or is it similar?

17. Guaranteed Textbook Buy Back – Buy new, with a guaranteed buyback price. Buy a book with guaranteed buyback after the class. B& offers this. Doesn't eliminate the book, but it can save you substantial cash.

18. The Imitation Textbook – good for short story anthologies and article readings. Find the constituent parts separately, as needed.

19. Textbook Slimdown - how much of the book do you need? Does it come in volumes? Maybe you can buy just one.

20. Table of contents online - Use the TOC to pick a comparable but cheap textbook, an older revision.

21. Online textbook libraries - some have textbooks. Could this provide a free textbook for one of your classes?

22. Persuade your professor to write, create, or compile free resources.

23. DIY Cheap Textbooks - Write, create, or compile your own. Or use an online Wiki.

24. Double Dipping – are you dating the teacher’s assistant (TA) or grad student/teacher? Do they have access to an professor’s textbook? Maybe you could borrow it, if it isn’t in use.

25. Evaluation Copy – professors get evaluation copies of textbooks in their field. Do you know any professors in the field who would loan you their eval copy for a term?

26. Multi-Class Textbooks – check with other students and professors. You may be able to buy a textbook that will work for two or three classes in a row.

27. Apply for bookstore scholarships - $500 or so, usually just for books and school supplies. It is really a gift card you use at the bookstore.

28. Electronic Textbooks – Can you save by buying just the electronic version of your book?

29. Disabled Versions – Do you qualify for a disabled version – or a free version from the disabled office at your school?

30. Skip the Class – extreme strategy – take the class at another school if tuition is less, you can transfer the class, and the book costs less. Or have a life experience evaluation for the material in the class.

31. Buy Where It’s Cheap - Live near a state line? Are textbooks tax-exempt in your neighboring state? Maybe you should switch schools.

32. Cheap Textbook Accumulation and secondhand stores – do your parents have a textbook that is a classic in its field? Did you see a super cheap textbook in your field at a secondhand store? See what books you will use next semester or after summer break, and start looking now at local secondhand stores and other book sales. Won’t work for new books, but you may find a book that has been in use for a couple of years, or the same book a revision or two old.

The no-no list

- Don't photocopy – you know it’s not right.

- Don't keep library books past due or forever. Do all the assignments for that book before due.

- Don't buy & return for the sake of lowering your costs– it’s unethical. Most schools have very tight return requirements anyway.

More To Come...

I'll expand on this as I find more resources and ideas. For now, use the ideas to find cheap textbooks!

Here are a few quick articles you can look at for similar ideas, maybe tweaked a little.

This one, a Wikihow cheap textbooks article has a bunch of good ideas.

This Wisebread college bookstore article gives some background on why colleges have problems with low cost books in their system.

I'll update the Beat-Tuition Blog as I expand on this article to give more detail. Come back and check it out.

For another take on this idea, I have written up a page about buying used textbooks, 5 tips and 5 ways to do it.

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