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What You Said: How Do You Save Money on Textbooks?

2011-08-24_154727

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tips, tricks, and sources for cheap textbooks. Now we’re back with a roundup of your money saving advice.

Textbooks are heavily marked up and the resale value (through traditional collegiate bookstores) is very low. What can you do to save? Follow the advice of your fellow readers.

Several readers suggested buying either late-editions of the book or the international edition. James highlights how he saved by buying the old edition of the book:

Purchase the previous edition from half.com. Just did this for my wife and the difference was simply incredible. The current edition recommended on the syllabus was $100+. The prior edition was $0.75 — that’s 75 cents! The shipping cost more than the book.

Just check with the professor. But almost always, there’s very little variation edition-to-edition. More money for video games, pizza, and booze. You’re welcome. : )

This is true. I’ve been teaching long enough to have gone through several editions of various books and there is usually very little difference between the two. Many times things are simply shuffled around and some of the exercises may have been swapped out.

Equally as popular as the late-edition trick was the international-edition trick. Devin writes:

Firstly, I never buy the textbook before classes start. A lot of professors I’ve had have been OK with us having a previous edition, or not even having the book at all.

When I do actually buy a book, I always check for international editions. They are significantly cheaper and a little lighter as well. Other than that, I usually get them from Amazon. Their free year of Amazon Prime for students was pretty nice. Free two day shipping for a year!

Although they aren’t running the free year of Prime anymore, they are still offering six months free for students.

For those times you really need the exact edition of a book but you don’t want to shell out the full price and risk losing most of the value come sell-back time, Chegg offers book rentals. Tanya writes:

I used to buy my books used from Amazon. Now I am in love with Chegg.com! I saved over $200 on books for my grad school class this term by renting from them. There’s the option to buy if you find that you’ll need the book later. You can also extend your rental, let’s say if you need to use the same book in a sequential course, just extend instead of sending it back and shipping it all over.

Fast shipping and good customer service.

Craig points out that Chegg isn’t the only book rental gig in town; Barnes and Noble recently rolled out a rental service:

Rent the book from Barnes and Noble’s NookStudy. That way, it’s electronic, you don’t have to carry a book around, you can take notes, and you don’t have to worry about returning anything-once the rental expires (about 6 months) you don’t have access to the book anymore.

For more money saving tips, hit up the original comment thread here. Have a tip to share? Sound off in the comments here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/26/11

Comments (8)

  1. 5n0u7

    lil late on this one but buying the internation edition from abebook.com saved me soooo much money

  2. rain.s

    I use bigwords.com. You input the ISBN or title of a book and it scouts the internet for the lowest price possible on the book. It both provides rental deals as well as purchase deals. Good stuff.

  3. Mike

    Surprised my suggestion didn’t make the cut…

    use the TRIAL rentals with B&N NookStudy, setup python/pycrypto, bust the drm with BNKeyretrieval.py

    I can usually find 3/4 of my texts available on B&N

  4. Michael Foresto

    The only thing not available on the web are lab manuals so I get stuck paying $15 – $20 for a manual written by the teacher, photocopied and bound by the department.

  5. Trish

    chegg.com

  6. michael

    one that i just discovered is renting books through amazon’s kindle. you dont necessarily need a kindle just download the kindle program from amazon

    spending less than $20 for a $60 kindle textbook vs. a $95 regular version

  7. George

    nobody mentioned surfing craigslist….

    I’ve had good deals off there as well for both myself and my son.
    Also, ebay sometimes you find books.
    Also, Facebook – check for groups for your school – usually, they are filled with
    book sales in the discussion section.

    Also, since many schools use the same books, when searching ebay, craigslist, try
    the book title, as well as the course ID (aka MATH 010) sometimes people just put
    up the course code.

    I hated when I had to pay full price.

  8. George

    Also, be careful with math and science, check to make sure you don’t need to buy a “key” to use a third party website, which usually doesn’t come with a used book – and sometimes can almost cost as much as the new book if you buy it separately. (ie. Mathlab)

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