How to Buy School Textbooks Online?

As anyone who’s been through it knows, college is ridiculously expensive. By the time you’ve paid for tuition, room and board, meal plans at the cafeteria, and the various school fees that go along with most classes you’ll probably have little to spend on textbooks.

On top of that, once you get to the school bookstore, you have to fight crowds of your fellow students, deal with professors who’ve mistakenly ordered the wrong books, and surly bookstore employees making minimum wage. No one has the time and energy for hassles of this magnitude. A great way to avoid it all is to buy your school textbooks online.

It’s easier than you’d think to buy your textbooks over the Internet. There are several ways to get your textbooks delivered directly to your door, whether you’re buying books new, going cheap and buying used, or renting books. Just follow these tips on how to buy school textbooks online and you’ll be free to focus on your classes in no time.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Buy on the Internet
  • Find used textbooks
  • Buy earlier editions
  • Consider renting
  • Buying on the Internet

If you want to avoid reading through other people’s highlighter marks and margin notes, buy school textbooks online that are brand new (and really, you can’t beat that new book smell). Most people are familiar with shopping online these days, and online booksellers are some of the most-used shopping sites on the Internet.

Perhaps the best known is, which has an extensive textbook section, including science and medical textbooks. Other brick-and-mortar bookseller chains also have online stores, such as Barnes and Noble and Borders.

Both of those stores have a limited textbook selection compared to Amazon, but if you’re looking, for example, for a cheap copy of Jane Eyre for your English class, these sites are a viable option. All three of these online booksellers accept all major credit cards and offer free shipping deals in certain situations.

Buying school textbooks online from any of these sources is a good way to avoid the crowds (and inevitable stocking issues) at your school’s bookstore. Buy school textbooks online and instead of searching the shelves and waiting hours in line with your fellow students, you’ll get your books delivered straight to your door.

Finding Used Textbooks


Of course, buying new textbooks isn’t for everyone. You can save a considerable amount of money when you buy school textbooks online by purchasing used books instead. Used books are readily available on the Internet. All three online booksellers mentioned above offer used copies of almost all of their books. Look on the product page for a link that lists the amount of used copies available and you’ll be on your way.

Keep in mind that when you buy school textbooks online in this manner you’re not buying from Amazon or Barnes and Noble directly but from something called an “authorized bookseller” or “authorized dealer.” It’s rather like buying something on eBay, and as with eBay the individual reliability of each bookseller might be mixed. Look for sellers that have a high customer rating.

Another excellent resource for used textbooks is the website Alibris sells only used books, and gives a detailed description of each book’s edition and physical condition, so you know exactly what to expect when the book arrives. This is also an excellent site if you’re the type who prefers not to do business with huge, soulless corporations.

Wherever you order your used textbooks, always keep in mind that when buying used shipping speeds might be slower, so you may want to consider ordering your textbooks well ahead of time. That way you can make sure you’re not waiting for your books to arrive while everyone else in class already has them.

Buy Earlier Editions

It’s a well-known secret that textbook publishers release new editions every few years as a way of undercutting the used textbook market. Once a publisher releases a new edition, the value of used copies of previous editions plummet. Often these “new” editions change little from previous versions, other than re-ordering the book’s chapters or updating graphs and pictures.

If you’ve been in school for a while already, then you’re familiar with the so-broke-you-eat-nothing-but-ramen-noodles lifestyle of the average college student. If you’re willing to deal with minor annoyances like having different page numbers than your class syllabus or looking at stock photos of people with outdated clothes and hairstyles, then you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing an earlier edition of your textbook.

To give a personal example, I once purchased an older edition of an Anthropology 101 textbook online for three dollars that cost eighty-nine dollars new in my college’s bookstore. The only difference between the new edition and my older one was the picture on the book’s cover. That kind of savings buys an entire semester’s worth of ramen noodles!

This strategy works best for lower-level classes where the basic nature of the subject hasn’t changed much in recent years (think science classes like geology or anthropology). Ask your professor about the usability of earlier editions before buying (if they’ve been teaching the class for a while, they’re probably familiar with any changes between editions). Also, check your edition against a classmate’s early in the semester to make sure it’s not too radically different.

As with any used book purchase, order well ahead of time, so that the book has plenty of time to get there. You’ll also want the time to be able to get a different copy if you find the earlier edition is too outdated to work for you.

Consider Renting

One easy alternative to trying to buy school textbooks online is to consider renting them instead. Renting textbooks is a great choice if you’re leery of hunting for used copies or don’t want to bet on the usability of earlier editions.

You’ll have to return your rental books when you’re done with them, of course, so it won’t work for you if hanging on to textbooks for later reference is important to you. However, for required classes or low-level classes whose textbooks you were probably going to sell at the end of the semester anyway, rental is an excellent option.

A simple Google search turns up such examples as,, and These all offer rental textbooks at prices that will save you a huge amount of money over buying new.

Renting textbooks offers all the convenience of buying used books online (home delivery, avoiding the hassle of store crowds, huge monetary savings) with none of the hassles (marked-up, damaged books and the risk of unusably outdated editions). It’s an excellent option for the modern college student looking to save some cash.

Buying School Textbooks Online

Life’s too short for the stresses of relying on the school bookstore. Following these suggestions for buying school textbooks online will give any college student more cash in their pocket and less pain in their neck. Whether buying used, new, hunting down earlier editions, or renting current ones, if you buy school textbooks online you’re taking control of a key aspect of your education. Get started!