The Best Sites to Buy Textbooks & The Best Sites to Rent Textbooks (+ More Textbook Shopping Tips)

Too many collegiettes’ biggest textbook worry is not how heavy lugging their books to class will be, but how much of an impact the books will have on their bank accounts. It’s no doubt one of the most frustrating parts of beginning each semester: that dreaded trip to the university bookstore to see how much that big, long list of books is going to cost you this time. However, there’s hope out there for all of us looking to save a little money this fall on one of the slightly-less-exciting school expenses. Check out Her Campus’s guide to fall textbook shopping guaranteed to save you time, and, of course, lots of moolah.

DO use your fellow students as resources when it comes to purchasing or getting rid of books.
This should be one of your first stops when comparing prices for fall books. Alice Chen, a recent grad of Emory University, explains: “I'd reach out to upperclassmen or other students who had taken the classes I was taking, because they usually sell them for prices cheaper than what's offered in the bookstore. Likewise, selling books to other students is more profitable than selling books back to the bookstore — what you'd get 25 cents for at the bookstore could be $25 if you sell directly to another student!”

It’s basic economics: both students benefit in this scenario, so it’s one of your best options for saving crazy amounts of money. And, with a Facebook group set up for every class at your school, buying and selling textbooks is a breeze! Create a post in your group, ask around in your sorority house or on your sorority list-serv, check with fellow teammates or anyone else you can think of and see if they have the books you need. It never hurts to ask!

DON’T make the university bookstore your first stop.
Sure, the university bookstore probably approached you at orientation or accosted you with mailings and advertisements about how easy it is to get books from them or how they’ll bundle everything you need in a nice, neat package, but don’t fall for it! More often than not, bookstores located on your campus are the most expensive place to buy your textbooks.

The other problem with investing in one of the nice, pre-packaged deals many university-sponsored bookstores offer is that you’ll end up with all the books listed by the professor, even if some of these are merely optional texts, to trick you into buying more than you need. You may also end up with new textbooks if you go directly with one of these packages instead of rental or used versions of the same book, which are usually cheaper. If you wind up making any purchases from the bookstore, used is almost always the way to go.

It never hurts to look into university pricing and see if they offer cheaper ways to buy or borrow a book for the semester, but don’t make it your one and only stop when prepping for your semester.

DO think about buying or renting online.
One of the best places to find deals on textbooks is the web! There are a gazillion sites out there devoted to scoring deals for you and your fellow students. Try out one of these:

BetterWorld Books
Prices for new or used textbooks at BetterWorld Books are often cheaper than the university bookstore, and you support a good cause as well! With a business model similar to that of TOMS shoes, BetterWorld Books donates a book to someone in need whenever you buy or rent a textbook through them. The best part about this site? Shipping is always free, no matter where in the world you’re located!

Chegg
Chegg is another site that saves you money and helps a good cause at the same time. For every book you order through Chegg, the company plants a tree! Chegg specializes in renting books, but they also give you the option to purchase many of the books you rent and they have a good selection of e-books, giving you lots of options when it comes to selecting textbooks for the fall. If you decide to rent a book, Chegg gives you access to the online version (if it’s available) for you to use while you wait for the physical copy to arrive in the mail. The site also lets you return the physical copy at the end of the semester for free.

Neebo
Neebo is your “Complete College Outfitter!” Not only can you buy, rent, and sell textbooks (both new and used) on this site, you can also stock up on anything and everything you need for school, such as notebooks, gear to show your school spirit, backpacks, and more all at the same time, in one place. Neebo rocks because they give you free shipping on any textbooks you rent and sell!

 

Textbooks.com
With over 10,000 titles ready to go for the fall, Textbooks.com is an easy source for finding a wide variety of books for purchase or for rent. They also have online versions of many books, giving you plenty of choices when it comes to ordering your reading material for the semester.

BookRenter
With options to buy, sell, and rent textbooks for a variety of different classes, BookRenter is another way to save some money on books. They’ll also give you free shipping on any order and let you return any rentals for free.

Half.com 
Like the sites above, you can rent or buy your textbooks from Half.com. If you decide to rent, they’ll also pay for your shipping when you return the books at the end of the semester. Since the site is an extension of Ebay, it’s also super easy to sell any purchased books back at the end of the semester and get your cash back in only a few days after someone purchases them!

Another useful tool for college students is Amazon Student. Anyone with an email address ending in .edu can visit Amazon and sign up for a free, six-month Amazon Prime membership, a deal that gets you free two-day shipping on anything you order from the online retail giant (like textbooks!), as well as access to a video library and books that can be downloaded on a Kindle. Once your trial membership ends, you’re also eligible for a discounted version of Amazon Prime to keep getting two-day shipping.

DON’T make your purchases right away.
There’s a 99 percent chance you won’t need your books on the first day of class, so why buy before then? Unless you’re absolutely certain you’re going to stick with a class, you need to do summer reading or assignments, you’re convinced prices will rise or you’ve found a great deal of a used copy of a book you know you’ll need, wait to buy books until the first few days of class are over. You don’t want to purchase a $200 chemistry textbook only to decide after day one that you’d rather be a poli sci major.

You also want to be sure you’ll actually use the books you’re “required” to have for a class. Kristen Pye, a junior at McGill University, advises to “determine which textbooks are necessary purchases and which are not. Textbooks that are not worth it are ones you only open once just to write your name in. If you're only going to use the textbook a couple times, just take it on loan from the library, or a classmate!”

Talking to the professor can sometimes make a difference as well. If you’re required to purchase a newer, updated version of a textbook that was just recently published, talk to your professor or a TA and find out how much of the book has really changed. It’s not worth forking out an extra $100 just for a few grammatical changes made to a book.

If you’re still hesitant or feel like you’re going to miss out on a great used book price, see if you can place a hold on the book or reserve it before committing to buy it. Then you’ll still save money, but won’t wind up with an unnecessary text.

DO think about renting books or using e-books.
You just checked you book list and--OMG--is that right? You really need a reader for your poli sci class that’ll cost you upwards of $50?! Thankfully, there are alternatives aside from actually purchasing the book. Kelsey Mulvey, a junior at Boston University, says she deals with sticker shocks like this every year but has a secret for getting cheaper books. “I just recently started renting as many textbooks from my school's bookstore that I can,” she says. “Not only are they usually less expensive than purchasing, but I don't have to worry about selling them back!”

Most schools and even some independent textbook retailers now offer students the option of renting a copy of a book instead of purchasing it. Like many of the online textbook sites listed above, you simply borrow a copy of the book from the store and return it once the semester is finished. You can also usually still write and highlight all over your rental books to remember things discussed in class, which will help when midterms roll around. Make sure to check on the renter’s policy before going nuts with the highlighter, though!

If renting isn’t an option, many schools now offer e-books for lots of popular textbooks, especially those used for gen ed classes. These e-books are often much cheaper since there’s no cost associated with printing the book or storing it between semesters. Most of these books also feature ways to highlight text and write in the margins, just like you would in an actual physical book, making sure studying and doing homework is still a breeze.

DON’T share textbooks that you’ll need multiple times a week with a friend or classmate.
Unless it’s an optional text that you’ll only be consulting once in a blue moon like the ones Kristen described earlier, don’t double up with a buddy when it comes to purchasing required books. If there are multiple readings due each week, you both will need to use the book often, making sharing a bit difficult. You also won’t want to part with the book when you’re cramming for midterms or trying to prep for a quiz in the last few minutes before class starts. Feel free to share notes, study tips, and thoughts from the readings—just don’t share the actual book!

However, if it’s an online version of a textbook for which all you need is an access code or permission number and login information, you could consider sharing with a friend or classmate. Be cautious, though: make sure what you plan to do doesn’t break (or bend) any laws, both of you can access the textbook simultaneously and there’s no extra work, online quizzes, or check-ins you’re expected to do as a part of the class that could make sharing tricky.

High prices for books are one of the few sucky parts of college. However, with some smart shopping and a little bit of time invested, you’ll be on your way to keeping that cute Longchamp bag just a little fuller come fall. 

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Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.

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