Back to School 101: Here’s How to Save Money on Textbooks

Thursday, August 9, 2018

save money on college textbooks

First-Year College Students’ Guide to Buying Textbooks


Back-to-school season is upon us, and as students across the globe prepare for their first year in college, there are a lot of extra expenses to consider outside of tuition and room and board – most notably the cost of textbooks. For first-year students who have never bought their textbooks before, navigating this new experience can be tricky. However, there are ways to shop smart for your textbooks this fall.

Unfortunately, college costs doesn’t stop once you’ve paid tuition for the semester. In addition to paying for courses, most students will also have to cover the cost of related materials, such as textbooks and required reading. According to the College Board, the average cost of a college textbook for 2017-2018 was $80, nearly $30 more than the same material sold during the 2011-2012 academic year. While it may be tempting to skip out on buying books, a 2017 survey by VitalSource found that 50% of students who did this saw their grades suffer as a result.

There are a variety of ways to save on book fees. Depending on the courses you are taking, your budget, and your college, different tips and tricks might work best for your personal and academic needs.

Price Compare Before Shopping on Campus
While your campus bookstore is probably the most convenient option, it may not be the most wallet-friendly. Large retailers such as Amazon often offer better deals on new books, so compare prices before purchasing. However, if you are really struggling to track down a certain textbook or need something specific ASAP, it may be worthwhile to buy the book from a university store.

Buy Used
If you want to own a book, but don’t mind a little wear and tear, purchasing a used book can be a cost-cutting option. There are plenty of retailers that sell used books, but if getting a good deal is a priority, consider starting with a comparison website such as BIGWORDS, which will show you both book costs and buyback value on one organized page. While cost is definitely a priority for many students, be sure to review the quality of the textbook as well, especially because you will need a complete, usable book to get you through months worth of studying.

Consider Renting, Not Buying
Realistically, you won’t be reading your Biology 101 textbook after you’ve completed the course. Renting can be a great option for slashing book costs, but just like buying used, rental books can have a little wear and tear. Some schools have started renting textbooks directly and even buy a book if they don’t have it in rental stock. Another great rental option is online platforms, such as Chegg, ValoreBooks, and If you’re interested in renting a digital book, VitalSource’s Inclusive Access delivery method promises to provide students with all required course materials on their first day of classes.

Share with a Friend
Some classes may require several books, some of which may only be used for a small portion of the semester. If this is the case and you’re trying to cut down on book costs, it may not make sense to buy or rent a book. Consider reaching out to a friend or roommate enrolled in the same course and potentially sharing reading materials, especially if a book is particularly pricey. While this may not be possible depending on the nature of the course, it does come with a unique bonus—a built-in study companion.

Buying textbooks should not be the only element of the back-to-school season on your radar right now. College-bound students should be moving into dorms, discussing budgets with family, and preparing for a new and exciting academic challenge. Whether you’re off to college, or still in high school, preparing for back-to-school should be fun! If you need help creating an academic plan to make the most of your fall semester, contact us today!

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