Top 5 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks


One of the biggest factors when buying textbooks is cost. Parents and students can spend hundreds of dollars each year, and the prices keep going up. And although on-campus bookstores make it easy to find all the textbooks you need, they are usually the most expensive resource. Luckily, there are several options to keep textbook expenses down, and most of these money-saving tactics can be done online.


Tip: Using a one-stop deal site like FatWallet to find timely coupons, discounts and cash back can stack up big savings on new, used, digital and rental textbooks from the more than 15 online stores (see complete list at Textbook Deals Cheat Sheet). The list includes Amazon, Alibris, and, who also have an awesome blog filled with a variety of key resources for saving on all your college expenses, including this recent post:
Top 10 Ways to Save Money at College.

Buy New Textbooks:

Probably the most expensive option for buying textbooks is purchasing a brand new print edition, especially directly from the campus bookstore. Even buying new textbooks online can be 2-3 times more expensive than used books. However, some students want a clean book with no scribbled art, torn pages, or flimsy bindings. If this is your choice, be sure to double check the new book’s ISBN number associated with your class schedule to assure your buying the right copy.

Buy Used Textbooks:

This is the most cost effective and time-saving way to save on textbooks. If you’re shopping at the on-campus store, buy early to get the best condition, or even get one at all. If buying online, you have several options as there are now dozens of online stores selling textbooks, and used can sell for up to 90% off. Make sure stores have quality ratings for their textbooks and offer a fair return policy (in the infrequent case that your rental purchase to be replaced or refunded).

Digital Textbooks:

A new trend, especially for students that habitually read/study on tablets, e-readers or computers, is to buy digital textbooks (when available). Amazon and other online stores have a large selection of digital textbooks available for purchase. You can save quite a bit by renting digital textbooks for the Kindle and in other formats from online stores with a “limited time-use agreement”, which can be extended as needed for additional costs. And just like new and used, most digital versions can include cash back on your purchases. Another digital option is to utilize the database of CourseSmart. They offer the majority of textbooks available today and let you read online or via a copy-protected PDF through a mobile app.

Rent Textbooks:

Textbook renting is fast becoming the most popular choice and can also save you a ton of money. There are a few options for this. Online rental is the most efficient as it doesn’t matter what school you attend. Several stores like Chegg, BookRenter and also offer cash back by shopping here through FatWallet, or at Some colleges or universities offer textbook rental services and many will buy a new version for you to rent if they don’t already have it in stock.

Sell Textbooks:

Since you paid for that textbook, you’ll want to get some money back when you’re done using it, so be sure to take good care of them as the better the condition, the more you’ll get back. On-campus bookstores only offer a percentage of what you paid for your books. To get a better price, try selling them online through sites such as (eBay) and The other option is to sell them outright to students and some colleges and universities have book buying clubs to help you do this.

Any time you can save money is good, but when you’re a college student, it’s essential. Find more Back to School deals and coupons for added savings on the majority of your other needs, like laptops, software, backpacks, dorm furniture and most school supplies.

Cash Back Resources

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