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.  Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Ebay.com, and Half.com ,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.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.