More than 65 percent of students say they did not buy a required textbook for class because of its cost, according to a 2014 report from student Public Interest Research Groups.
And it’s no wonder why. Textbook prices have gone up 812 percent since 1978.
What’s more, College Board says the average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public college will spend close to $1,300 on textbooks and supplies each year.
Overall, the cost of books can add thousands to your education costs. But skipping on necessary books can hurt your performance in class and lower your grades as well.
And if you’re falling behind and flunk a class, you could spend even more money to make up the credits.
However, rather than shelling out thousands of dollars for required books, there are ways to get cheap textbooks for college if you’re willing to check out alternatives.
Where to buy cheap textbooks
With school costs reaching all-time highs and student loans becoming a major issue, cutting costs wherever you can is essential to make college affordable.
And thanks to some ingenuity and research, you can definitely find college books at a discount.
First and foremost, skip the school bookstore. Schools charge premiums, and because many students don’t realize they have options, they hand over their money for overpriced books.
Instead, check out these alternatives to get the cheapest college textbooks.
1. Review retailers for new books
If your professor assigned a newly published book, buying used is not an option. But many retailers sell new books for much less than a campus bookstore.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble often carry textbooks with lower prices and sometimes offer coupons and promotional codes as well.
If you have to buy new, check out BigWords before you purchase. BigWords compares prices from major online booksellers, so you can find the best deal available.
2. Consider used books
If you don’t mind a book with dog-eared pages or writing on some pages, a used book can be a great choice.
You can find used books in fair to excellent condition at sites like Amazon, Half.com, or Textbooks.com. Often times you can get up to 50 percent off or more on some books.
So if you can put up with a little wear and tear, you can save significantly on the purchase price.
3. Rent your books
Another option is to try renting textbooks to get them cheap for college. Some sites offer online or hardcopy rentals for the length of your semester. Check out Amazon, Chegg, Campus Book Rentals, and TextBooks.com for textbook rentals.
But if you go this route, make sure you compare multiple sites for the best rate before renting. Right now, Chegg has that Psychology book for rent for around $35. But Campus Book Rentals has it for the semester for about $22.
4. Share with a friend
Even if you can buy used textbooks or rent your books, the cost of textbooks for multiple classes can still add up in the hundreds.
The good news is you can cut your costs in half by sharing your books with a classmate. If you divide up the costs between the two of you, it can make textbooks much more affordable.
This idea works best when you are in different time slots for the same class, so you can pass off the book to each other in between sessions. While it can take some planning and scheduling, sharing the cost can save you money.
5. Look for open source
Finally, many professors are starting to realize what a burden expensive books are on students.
More and more teachers are instead using open source texts for their classes. Open source books are published for free online. The authors post them with an unrestricted license, so students can download them and even read them on their smartphones.
It’s one of the best ways to get cheap textbooks for college. In fact, a report found that students could save an average of $128 a course if traditional books were replaced with open-source versions.
College Open Textbooks and OpenStax are two of the biggest sites for open source books. They offer high-quality texts that are peer-reviewed by industry leaders, just like the expensive books. But, they’re free to read and download.
To find out if your school or a particular professor uses open source books, check with the school library. Or, ask the instructor directly.
6. Resell your textbooks
Finally, selling your new or used textbooks when you are done with them can help you recoup some of your costs.
Again, skip the school bookstore and sell your books online. You’ll get more money than the bookstore would offer. And, you can compare different offers to ensure you get the best price for your books.
Shop around for cheap textbooks for college
College textbooks can add thousands of dollars to your education costs.
So before picking up next semester’s books from the school bookstore, shop around and explore your options. You may be able to rent, buy a used book, or find a free version.
Over the course of four years of school, that approach can save you thousands.
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