Textbooks are a huge expense when going to college. A year ago the Los Angeles Times did an article about how Cal State was looking for ways to drive down the costs of textbooks. They stated that the average student spent more than $1,000 annually on textbooks. So what can you do to save money on college textbooks?
The DoughRoller has a great article about websites to buy and sell college textbooks. They first published the article in 2011, but updated it and republished it today. With many people starting college or going back to school in August, we thought it was a timely article that will help save college students money.
They first suggest you go to your local college bookstore and get the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is found on the bar code, for every textbook you need for all your classes. This way you will be sure to get the correct edition of textbook.
The websites they suggest to buy and sell your college textbooks, with a little bit of info about each along with the links, are:
- MyNextCollege search tool: It lists dozens of places to buy the book along with the prices for comparison. It will also tell you where you can rent the textbook or get digital versions of the textbook.
- Amazon: You can get new or used textbooks at huge savings. And, if you are a prime member (students can get a Prime membership for 50% off), you get free shipping. You can also buy electronic versions of the textbooks.
- Barnes and Noble: They sell new and used for a discount. They also buyback and rent textbooks.
- Half: A sister site to eBay, Half.com doesn’t auction textbooks but sells them for a flat rate.
- Textbooks.com: Buy, rent or sell textbooks at this website. In addition, they have free shipping for orders over $25.00 (with some exceptions).
- Chegg: Relatively new to the textbook marketplace, according to DoughRoller they focus on rentals. But going direct to the website it looks like you can rent, buy or sell.
In addition, in comments at the bottom of the DoughRoller article, consumers listed other websites they have used for textbooks and their experiences with them and others already mentioned. Here are the additional websites they list, with the links:
- Textbookstop: Rent or get used textbooks here.
- TextbookFind: Does the same thing MyNextCollege does. A place to comparison shop. Will show you the prices for Amazon, Chegg and Barnes & Noble, and more.
- TextbookRecycling: The person who mentioned this website said, “I like these guys because they pay high prices”. In addition, they will buy back books the bookstore won’t. You can also buy and rent books from them.
- GreenTextbooks: About this, the person mentioning it said, “they are an awesome site and all ways get me the most money for my textbooks”.
If all these websites aren’t enough for you to choose from, google “cheap textbooks”, “college textbooks” or just “textbooks” for more options.
Wherever you decide to buy, rent or sell your textbooks, here are some words of advice from DoughRoller:
When considering rental programs, make sure you’re using an apt comparison. Rather than comparing the rental price against the new or used price, compare it against that price minus the average buyback amount. In the Textbooks.com example above, a rental seems like a bargain. But, if you can buy the book used for $71 and sell it yourself for a similar amount, you’d wind up $26 in the hole by renting the textbook.
When it comes time to sell your books back at semester’s end, don’t feel any loyalty to the store you bought the book from. See which retailers are offering top dollar for your titles. And, remember that you’ll probably get the best prices from sites where you are the direct seller to the buyer, such as Half.com or the Amazon marketplace. These sites make their money from sales fees, rather than markup. Other sites have to buy the book from you at a low enough amount to leave room to sell them at a profit.
Also, don’t disregard your campus bookstore as a place to sell your books back. This writer once bought a mathematics textbook for $40 and sold it back to the campus bookstore for over $60. (Yes, you read right: sometimes you can actually make money selling your books back.) Just make sure you remove any price tags from other stores. Otherwise, the sell-back can get awkward.
And, of course, don’t forget about your roommates or friends. If you are taking the class in the same semester you can split the cost of the book and share it. Or find out if your roommates or friends are currently taking the class you signed up for next semester or will take a class you are currently taking. You might be able to buy from them or sell the textbook to them, taking the chance the class doesn’t upgrade to a new edition of the textbook.
Another way to save money is to check on the differences between the current and last edition of the textbook. Often, the new one has only has a few pages or pictures different. As long as there aren’t any major differences, i.e. in the questions at the end of the chapter, older editions can be quite a bit cheaper and just as useful. Since publishers only get money on new editions they will often make minor changes and say “New Edition”, when there really isn’t that much difference.
International editions are also cheaper, with a paperback cover and often a three-ring binder. However, they CAN be different. So do your research before buying them.
Whatever you do, be sure to check out the various websites to buy, rent, or sell college textbooks before going ahead and buying them at the college bookstore. Your wallet will thank you!