save money on textbooks
Buying textbooks in college can be expensive for many students. Source: Daniel Roland/AFP

With textbook costs rising more than 1,000% since the 1970s, wanting to save money on textbooks sounds like a pipe dream.

But it’s not entirely impossible if you know what to do and where to look.

Many students overlook the cost of textbooks. With so many expenses to handle, from tuition fees and rent to living expenses, it is no surprise that many students forget to budget for this.

Which lands them in trouble — every year, textbooks and reading materials cost between US$628 and US$1,471.

Forget to set money aside for this and you could be stuck without the right books for the entire year.

While libraries can help you out, they won’t always have what you need all the time.

You’ll have to return the books every few weeks too.

The good news there are several ways to find cheaper textbooks or even read them for free.

So if you are looking for ways to save money on your college textbooks, here are a few options for you.

Six ways to save money on textbooks:


Choosing second-hand options is a great way to save money on textbooks. Source: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP

Opt for used books whenever possible 

While we all like the sight of a shiny new textbook, buying used ones can save you a ton of money.

To find these used books, one great way is to check out any book exchange groups on your campus or get to know your older classmates who are looking to sell their textbooks.

Marketplaces like Amazon also have an option for you to buy used textbooks, which significantly reduces the price.

Many students even use these platforms to sell their old books in exchange for money.

Don’t forget to look out for second-hand bookstores near your university as many receive textbooks at the end of each semester.

Buy older editions 

While some subjects require you to have the newest edition of the textbook, where the material remains the same, you can choose to buy the older editions to save cost. 

Be sure to check with your lecturers before choosing to buy an older edition, so you do not miss out on any important information.

Rent your textbooks

Most of the time, you will not need to keep your textbook for more than a semester. So instead of paying the full price for a new book, why not rent a textbook? 

There are a number of stores and online websites that allow students to rent textbooks at a low cost.

Chegg, Amazon and Campus Book Rentals are some of the most popular sites for students to rent textbooks.

Here, you will get a copy of the book and be able to use it till the end of your semester.  



Yes, it’s possible to save money on textbooks. Source: Stephen Brashear/AFP

Free textbook options

If you are lucky, a quick search on Google can provide you with free access to the textbook that you need.

Though rare, this is sometimes the case for older books that are no longer under copyright protection.

Alternatively, Open Library and Project Gutenberg are some of the nonprofit websites that offer books and reading material that is free for students. 

Be sure to check out your university’s physical and online libraries, which will give you access to many books and academic journals. 

Share your books

Though not the best option, sharing one textbook between two or more people is possible.

While some teachers insist that their students bring their books to class, others use them as extra reading and devote class time to lectures. 

Share the cost of the book with a close friend or roommate who is in the same course.

This can work out nicely as long as you can coordinate your study schedules so that you both have access to the book whenever you need it.

Look for discounts and scholarships

While many bookstores do not advertise it, there are a number of discounts available for students.

So don’t forget to ask when you are looking to buy your textbooks.

Scholarships are available specifically for textbooks from retailers like Barnes & Noble, which runs numerous on-campus bookstores nationwide.

Don’t be shy to ask for help from your International Student Office either. They may have some emergency funds to help you out.