Where to Buy Cheap College Textbooks

College students these days are inundated with advertisements for countless different companies claiming to have the best, cheapest, and newest textbooks for sale or rent. It seems like new book selling and reselling companies are popping up all the time to take advantage of the desperation of students for affordable textbooks. But what is really the best way to get cheap textbooks?

Mandatory Texts

First of all, make sure the book is actually required for the course. Some professors list a book as necessary on their syllabi but rarely if ever end up using it. For this reason, many students wait to buy books until after the first few classes have gone underway. Talking to other students who have taken the course previously may also help shed light on how often the book was used and in what capacity. If it was used for homework assignments, but rarely in class, students may be able to get away with sharing one book between two or three of them, thus cutting the price significantly.

Library Inventory

Once it’s been determined that the book will be needed at least sometimes, it’s time to take a trip to the library. Many university libraries carry copies of all the required textbooks for all courses. In some cases, they have limited copies that are only available for use inside the library itself, which is ok in the case mentioned above where the book is only used for homework assignments, but not ideal. In other cases, the textbooks are available for checkout. Make sure to check the library as soon as possible, since any textbooks they have will be in inevitably limited supply. First come, first served!

Use Connections

If the library doesn’t have them, or doesn’t have any left, it’s time to reach out to friends. Find someone who has taken the class in a previous semester who may be willing to lend out their book or sell it for a small price. If possible, try to work this out well in advance to avoid them accidentally reselling it before they knew it would be needed. It may be helpful to post a “wanted” ad on any sort of forum the university maintains. Many students are willing to lend out their books for a semester because they know they can always resell them once they get them back again, and time isn’t too much of an issue.

Additional Tips

There are a few different ways to get textbooks for cheap or even free with a little creativity and advanced planning. Talk to friends, make use of university and public libraries, and if all else fails, try out one of the millions of cheap textbook sites. The one thing that should never be done is taking that brand new list of required reading down to the university bookstore without so much as a cursory glance at the other options. That is one tried-and-true way to get ripped off, but university bookstores still thrive on their convenience and appeal to the uninitiated. Don’t fall into that trap!