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Oh, books–the burden every college student must survive at one point. Books are probably the most expensive thing you will have to spend money on besides your tuition and housing. And the horrid thing is, you have to buy these books immediately, which means a huge bite out of your bank account. $200-$800 a semester on books? No, thank you! What has been especially difficult lately is that classes are creating alternative options to traditional textbooks–that is, school versions, e-books, and secured journals you have to buy in order to read. But still, there are many ways to save money on books and put the cash back on your pocket.

1. Use Book Reserves.

If you spend all your study time in the library anyway, don’t bother buying your books. Ask your professor if he/she has books on reserves, and just check it out when you need it. That way, you won’t have books clogging your limited shelve space.

2. Borrow books.

If you ‘re good buddies with an upperclassmen who wants to keep his books for future reference but doesn’t necessarily need the books that semester, try borrowing the textbooks!

3. Buy off of upperclassmen.

Selling your books back to your university bookstore can be pretty useless, upperclassmen learn that. So they are probably looking to sell their books through the grapevine or on Facebook’s Marketplace. You don’t really have to look into getting new textbooks, as professors understand the need to save money and give you alternative reading assignments for older versions of books. And this works especially well if you have to get a school-specific edition of the textbook. Look into this early and often, or just post Facebook statuses/have friends post Facebook statuses advertising your need for certain textbooks!

4. Buy online.

Most people I know buy their new books off And with the year-long student Amazon Prime trial, you can get your textbooks within 2 days for free! Other online shopping options are or is also a handy device that searches all your options to buy online and allows you to compare prices!

5. Buy international editions.

The great thing about international versions is that they are soft cover (read: lighter), and they will be almost exactly the same, except for maybe a different cover.

6. Buy e-book versions.

If you have an e-book reader or can handle reading things on the computer all the time, this is a great option because it saves about 2/3 of the cost of a hardcover, printed textbook.

7. Rent online.

This is an option that a growing number of students are taking advantage of. You don’t have to worry about selling books again if you don’t want it, and if you do want to keep the book after all, there are buying options at the rental websites. Check out Chegg, AbeBooks, Textbooks, and BigWords for your rental options! I like Chegg best because they plant a tree for every book you rent.

8. Sell them online.

When all is said and done, and you don’t need the books anymore, why bother keeping them? You won’t get much money back by selling them back to the bookstore, so don’t bother with that. Instead, sell them on Marketplace or to get the full value of your book back!

9. Split the cost between a group of friends.

This works especially well with e-books and journals. Only one person needs to buy the set, then make several copies to split the cost among friends.

If there is anything you should take away from this, don’t buy from the university bookstore unless you absolutely must. That’s the #1 way to lose money on books.

watch an interesting clip below of Bill Gates discussing the future of textbooks.
Bill Gates on the Future of Textbooks

Do you know any other ways to save money on books? Let us know in the comments below!


Photo courtesy of wohnai via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).