How to Find College Textbooks for Cheap or Free

Let’s face it, financing an education is expensive.  In addition to tuition and fees, you have to factor in parking passes, extracurricular activities, and textbooks.  These items alone can cost you a hefty amount of change.  As a student or a parent of student, it won’t take you long to rack up a serious amount of debt before graduation day.

Here are a few suggestions that will help you defray the cost of college:

‘Textbook’ can be the dirtiest word in a college student’s vocabulary.  Not only are they cumbersome to read and carry, they also tend to be very expensive.  At $50-$150 a piece, textbooks tend to be the one thing many students refrain from buying or try to share with roommates.In some cases this can work, but more often than not you’ll find that not having your own book means not studying on your own schedule or sometimes not getting the book at all when you really need it.  I know ways to get around paying full price for books you’re only going to use for a couple of months and have listed them below.

First and foremost, you must avoid college bookstores like the plague if absolutely possible.  No matter what your school of thought is, institutions of higher learning are out to make money just like everyone else.  Required texts are ridiculously overpriced even when they sport a ‘USED’ sticker on the front of them.

No matter what your financial aid status is, the best advice I can give is to shop around online before purchasing a single text.  For those of you who are lucky enough to have books included in your scholarship package, disregard what I’m going to say next.  Beg, borrow, or steal, but don’t pay any more than you have to for college textbooks.

Cheap texts can be obtained through a variety of methods.,,, and ,are a few of the retailers that offer deeply discounted books to their customers. An even more revolutionary idea is to buy, sell or trade books with fellow students.  Post flyers around campus and watch the money come in.  Charge a fair price and you’re guaranteed to sell whatever books you have lying around from the previous semester. And keep an eye out in the campus newspaper or subscribe to the college email lists for students. You can be sure to find students selling their unused books for at least less than what the campus bookstores will be.

But in this day and age your best bet is to turn to the internet. Websites like these take the guesswork out of trading, buying and selling textbooks online:

Another unique option is Freeload Press. Freeload Press has been praised in the media for its effort to save students an estimated $900 a year in textbook costs.  By filling out a simple form a person can access dozens of downloadable texts free of charge. I don’t know about you, but saving nearly a thousand dollars a year buying the books you’d need to buy anyway is a pretty good savings.

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Filed Under: saving money


About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.

jaycedaniels 1 Like

These sites do not exist yet when I was in college and we have to buy a whole lot of them. What's even more frustrating is that you'll only use a few chapters of them. But glad that students now have this option to save on textbooks.


I really think that the best way for us (college students) to save money on our textbooks is to buy (and sell) our textbooks to each other. Pretty much like craigslist. The only website that I found that actually has students posting their books is I'm pretty sure they're open to a majority of the schools (universities that is) nationwide. Hoope that helps! :)

C in DC
C in DC 1 Like

I would say to check your local charity shops and thrift stores if you're in a big college town. Often students will dump their unwanted books there.

Also see if you have a used bookshop near by that takes textbooks. This one in Baltimore is one of the few nearby that actively takes textbooks. And gives them away for FREE!


The cost of textbooks is ridiculous. I took a class in financial counseling last year and the only way to purchase the book was directly from the author. The author wanted to control distribution to maximize their piece of the pie. They could afford to do that since they are considered to be the leading authority on the subject. The market is so small I don't believe a secondary market existed for that book. Frustrating.

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