How to Buy Discount Textbooks

Believe it or not, learning how to buy discount textbooks is simple. College costs are high enough as it is without the addition of several hundred or even thousands of dollars worth of textbook costs added in. Even though an instructor can require you to buy multiple textbooks for a single class, they can’t require you to buy the book new. The best way to subtract from the bottom line of college costs? Buy used textbooks at a huge discount.

Why Buy Discount Textbooks

Besides the obvious reasons for buying a textbook used (the low price) there are other advantages you may not have thought about.

  1. Buying used textbooks is “green”. You save a ton of paper for every textbook you buy used. If you’re the type of person that practices recycling as a kind of religion, it doesn’t make sense to keep buying brand new textbooks.
  2. Discount textbook vendors sometimes offer great package deals. This is especially true of online used textbook vendors — they’ll ship you a “bonus” package of things you may need during your studies, everything from free filler paper or supplies to coupons to local restaurants and other goodies.
  3. If you’re lucky, a used textbook may include notes from former owners. Complex medical textbooks are notoriously well “noted”, and if you missed a lecture or just need a quick refresher on a topic, having a former student’s notes on a topic could give you that last boost you need to score an A.
  4. College students think people who buy discount textbooks are sexy. Okay, so this one’s a bit of a stretch, but if the hot blond in your Geology lecture notices the bright yellow “USED” sticker on your book, he or she will know that you’re financially-savvy. Saving money at the bookstore means more money for the bar, which is always a plus in the dating scene.

How Do Used Textbooks Work?


Many college students go on the hunt for textbooks and buy the first thing they see — some students have huge scholarships or grants that make college cheaper, so they don’t have to worry about saving money at the campus bookstore. As soon as these students walk out of the bookstore, the textbooks they bought are instantly “used”, even if they return the books in a manner of just a few days. At the end of a semester, a student will sell their textbooks back to the bookstore for a little bit of cash. These textbooks that once cost a pretty penny are now labeled “used” and sold for a fraction of the cost.

There are other ways that used textbooks get in the hands of poor college students — the Internet is jammed with book sellers looking to make a buck by offering expensive textbooks at a discount, or selling “used” textbooks for less than you can find on a college campus. If you want to save money on textbooks in college, check out your online options before you plunk down a bundle for that new science text.

There’s still another way you can buy discount textbooks — book rental is becoming more common as college costs increase exponentially from year to year. When you rent a book from an online vendor, you’re basically doing the same thing you’d do at your local bookstore except through the mail. You pay the rental fee up front (usually a fraction of the “new” cost), use the book for the semester, and return the book back to the rental company in a prepaid package. A big advantage to using a rental company to buy discount textbooks is that you don’t have to stand in line or dig around a bookstore to find a decent used copy — the rental company does the work for you, and even pays for shipping.

Buying Discounted Textbooks – Examples

Still not convinced to buy discount textbooks? Here’s a look at the cover prices for specific editions of new and used textbooks. When you see the difference in your bottom line, you’ll understand the benefits of buying discounted textbooks.

  • The Presence of Others (3rd edition) — This textbook is used by lots of universities at the “English 101” level. It retails for $44.50 but is available at a discount online of as much as 60%. That means you could end up paying about $17 for a book that your fellow students paid nearly $50 for.
  • PDR: Nurse’s Drug Handbook (2009 edition) — Medical textbooks are notoriously expensive, and this massive guide to prescription drugs sells for as much as $80 in the bookstore. I found used versions online for as little as $12, enough savings to keep you and your roommates in pizza for a month.
  • The Theatre Experience — If you’re buying a book about theatre, you’re most likely pursuing a degree in the humanities. Since you’re going to be broke for years to come, why not save money with discount textbooks? This book is almost $100 new, but is available online for $17.91.
  • Materials Science and Engineering — An engineering textbook with a less-than-flashy title, you can expect to spend upwards of $250 for this title when it is new. If you buy the discount textbook online, you can pay as little as $19.19.
  • The Art of Public Speaking — These days, every college student is required to take a course in public speaking. This text costs $115 new and it was easy to find a used version for under $40.

If you purchased all five of these books at the cover price, you’d pay $588. Buying the used versions your total would be just $104. That’s a savings of over 80%. If a car dealer offered you that kind of savings, you’d jump for joy and sign on the dotted line. This is why you have to buy discount textbooks.

You hear all the time how expensive college is, how the costs are rising every year and that Federal and school aid is becoming less and less available and represents a smaller portion of costs. Why not put a dent in your college costs anywhere you can? Buying new textbooks doesn’t make sense, unless of course your textbook is brand new and no used versions exist. Even in that case, look online for textbook rental services — you may be surprised to find out how much money you can save with used books.