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10 Top Tips to Save Big on College Textbooks

UserMark time25 February,2016

The new academic session is here! You are excited about attending a fresh set of classes at your college. But you have a reason to worry too. Along with new classes comes another round of ‘pocket-pinching’ textbook buying exercise.

The average tuition fee for a year at college or university currently stands at around $18000. And if you are attending a private college/university, expect to pay twice. It is a known fact that college textbooks are quite an expensive buy and adds to the burden. But at the same time, it is on textbooks only where you can cut down on your college expenses.

10 Tips to Save Big on College Textbooks


You need to know the correct strategies to save big on college textbooks. Majority of the college students are not aware of these money-saving tactics and end up spending a lot on buying textbooks. This leaves many of them broke by the end of a semester. Don’t be surprised if you are also one of these students who owe a significant percentage of their education debt on expensive textbooks.

So, if you really want to save big time on college textbooks, then just follow the expert tips mentioned below:

1. Stay away from the campus bookstore

Yes, this is the easiest and the best way out for you to spend the least money on college textbooks. Buying textbooks at your college campus bookstore is like buying vegetables from an air-conditioned grocery market. The common factor between these two instances is that greater convenience leads to higher prices.

A campus bookstore is a suitable place for buying specialized things like an encyclopedia or subject-based guide books (if at all required). Other than this stuff, this bookstore will only burn your wallet. Try finding some other shop to buy any book if it is necessary.

2. Check out the campus library

Even if the campus bookstore is a strict NO, the campus library is definitely a YES. Go ahead! It is true that your college library might keep textbooks on reserve which means you can’t check them for more than a few hours in a single go, but still visiting the library will help a lot.

Some college libraries do not allow taking the textbooks out of their premises, while some don’t allow taking them out of the campus. If your college library has such restrictions too, simply carry a notebook and pen to the library. Take down the main points from the textbook in your notebook and rewrite them as detailed notes at home. A helpful peer or friend can accompany you to the campus library to get your notes compiled from the required textbook.

3. Share/swap textbooks with pals

If you are living in a campus dormitory then you can try either of the two ways to arrange for textbooks with the help of your pals. The first way is to divide the cost with your best friend or roommate — who is taking the same classes — to share the textbook(s). This method works correctly if you can arrange for study schedules that help you and your friend access the book for studying at separate times.

The second way is to organize a huge group of students and observe what textbooks everyone has gathered. Then, you can swap textbooks with them for the semester or the entire course as per your study requirements. The initial semesters of a college course require numerous students to go for mandatory subject classes that set the perfect stage for book swapping situation.

4. Study someone’s else’s work

Your college library will undoubtedly consist of numerous students’ projects on all the possible academic subjects. If you find it restrictive to read a library textbook for a few hours, just take a scan of the subject’s assignment that’s available. The PDF scan of a senior student’s assignment is as useful as a textbook since it covers the relevant subject issues/topics.

By the way, you can even try taking a scan of your library’s textbook if a scanner is available in your library. Just make sure you keep the PDF copy for reference only, otherwise your assignment may invite plagiarism.

5. Look out for eBooks

It’s true that the Internet Technology has revolutionized textbook reading for students, particularly at the college level. Numerous textbooks are available in the eBook format, and some of them are free too. Yes, the easiest way to search an eBook on Google is to type the textbook’s name followed by typing ‘free pdf version.’ You can even search by typing ‘free eBooks’ on and other portals that list a range of eBooks for free downloads. Such portals contain numerous textbooks in their electronic form as per academic subject categories like Math, English, etc. Some portals even categorize their eBooks in the form of Drama, Biography, Business, etc.

But remember eBooks have a flipside like every other thing on the planet. At times, it’s very tough to locate a particular page while using an eBook. Here, you may need to find that page by going through all the pages that can be time-consuming and frustrating. Such a thing may occur while going through a History eBook. But overall the eBooks on other subjects are easy to avail and handle. Most of the available lots are older versions of the books’ printed forms.

Yes, rental books are an interesting way to save your spending on textbooks. It’s highly applicable in some courses where you

6. Consider the option of rental books

don’t need to use the textbook(s) on a regular basis. But at first, it’s important to understand the conditions of this rental system. You surely need to take extra care of rental books so that you don’t have to pay extra while returning them. You can identify the subjects where the books do not require regular reading. Then, instead of buying such textbooks, all you need to do is take out a few hours every week to visit the bookstores and rent those textbooks.

But one factor you should always keep in mind that renting textbooks cannot be the cheapest alternative all the time, especially when you compare the rent with the resale value of a textbook you have bought.

7. Use mix-and-match technique to prepare notes

Under the mix-and-match technique, you can make notes through various sources like textbooks from libraries, free eBooks from subject-related websites/blogs, class lectures or with the help of friends in group studies. All you need to do is pick up all the relevant points/concepts from all such sources and frame your subject’s notes by ‘mixing’ the data. Certain concepts from more than one source ‘match’ with each other so they can be used only once to avoid redundancy.

Once the notes are prepared in a chapter-wise manner, you may not need a textbook for final exam preparation. But ensure to follow this technique only in those course subjects that aren’t heavily dependent on textbooks. It has been observed that subjects related to career ethics or ecological studies in professional courses don’t heavily depend on textbooks and the mix-and-match technique can be used over here.

8. Review your syllabus

You should review your semester’s syllabus to track any excess material. Reviewing helps you get an idea of what your exact study requirements should be. There are high chances of your professors adding study materials that you may actually not require at all. These materials might be study guides, extra textbooks on the same subject for a second opinion, and other ancillary textbooks. A great way out is to wait until you are half way into the semester to decide whether you really need to purchase such textbooks or not.

Another interesting way is you can ask other students who had taken up these courses previously. They can confirm whether you really need to purchase these new textbooks or not. You can even read some reviews over the Internet related to the course classes. These reviews can help you gain access to more information of the academic happenings in such classes.

9. Buy a new textbook only if necessary

Once in a while, it’s not a bad idea to buy a new textbook even if it may pinch the pocket a little bit. As stated earlier in the blog, the mandatory classes at the initial semesters of a course don’t require heavy use of textbooks. It’s the time when textbook sharing among peers or eBooks is sufficient for subject preparation. But during the upper-level semesters of your course, you may need to buy textbooks since they can act as references even during professional life in future. You should think about the academic textbooks that will be required for long-term usage. Such textbooks are enough to be purchased in their new avatar.

These textbooks won’t be a waste of your money since you won’t read them for once just before the final exam preparations. These books are meant to be read even during professional life for project/task references or job interview preparations. It is an interesting way to receive dedicated textbooks that can be your own without any wear and tear. Such resources will always remain a wise investment during your academic life at the college or university level.

10. Prefer to buy the older edition

Yes, certain studies have shown that new editions cost around 50 percent more than an old edition. It’s interesting to see that newer editions are not much different from the older ones. They just look much more polished and have slightly different page numbers. Whenever you compare the old as well as new editions of a textbook, you may not find any significant difference between them.

But do remember that if you switch over from an old to a new edition of a textbook, then it may at times becomes tough to search for any specific information during lectures. Such a difficulty arises especially when the page numbers for a particular chapter or concept change in the new edition due to some rare possibility of added information and other technical factors like line spacing, font style, etc.

Finally, along with these 10 ways, you must also review your syllabus. You can even make use of your social media accounts to review more about the subjects’ syllabus. You can interact with classmates or ex-students to see which textbooks are exactly trending in the relevant academic online circles. All these tactics can help you to save a lot on textbooks.

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