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10 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Textbooks

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Jacqueline PaumierGuest Blogger
August 10, 2017 · 6.1k Views

where to get cheap or even free college textbooks

Just when you were recovering from the shock of the rising cost of tuition, you noticed the insane price of your textbooks for this semester. They had to have misplaced that decimal, right? You’re not imagining it, the prices of books are higher than ever before with prices averaging up to $300 each. One recent poll discovered that the average university student pays nearly $1,200 per year on textbooks, not easy on a college student budget. While the prices of books can seem like highway robbery, there are plenty of tricks to knock that price tag right down to zero. Just check out our list and save that hard earned cash for something more important... like cafeteria food.


  1. Trade with a friend.
    Especially when it comes to prerequisites, chances are there is a book you need that a friend has and vice versa. Don't be too shy to ask around, and if none of your friends can help then make a post on a Facebook group for your school. Sites like Paperback Swap also let you swap your old books with people online. 
  2. Check your Academic Learning Center.
    You may just belong to one of the lucky schools that carry some of the required textbooks in the library. Unfortunately, this means you will have to stay in the library, but there is nothing wrong with some quiet study time. Just be sure to get there early before other students check out all of the copies.
  3. Download them for free.
    You didn't hear it from us, but there just so happens to be some websites out there that have downloadable versions of textbooks available for FREE. Check the following sites for the book you are looking for: Textbook Nova, eBookee, ManyBooks, FeedUrBrain, FreeTextbooks, Project Gutenberg.
  4. Buy them used.
    This option may not be free, but it sure beats buying them new. The important thing is to be willing to hunt for the best deal. Check Facebook, message boards, and even craigslist for used textbook deals. When all else fails, Amazon always has a wide selection available.
  5. Chegg it.
    No, not chug it! I said Chegg it. Chegg is like Amazon but even cheaper. They have both physical copies and e-book copies available at some of the most competitive prices you can find. Some textbooks are priced up to $40 less than Amazon prices.  To get learn more about Chegg and even more ways to save, subscribe to our Chegg email alerts here.
  6. Rent it.
    These days you can rent everything from your clothes to your bags, why not rent your textbooks? This option is perfect for those elective classes you haven't quite committed to or that career choice you want to look into before choosing a major. By renting your books only for the time you need them, you save yourself from being saddled with an overpriced book if you drop the class. Check out the following book rental sites: Half.com, Campus Book Rentals.
  7. Sell back your old books.
    While trying to reduce the cost of buying your books, every penny counts. Try turning to sites like Amazon, Craigslist, or eBay to sell back your old books and put your profit towards your new ones. It's unlikely that you will receive half of the money back, but it will help take the sting off of your bank account.   
  8. Use Amazon Prime Student.
    One of the perks of being a college student! Sign up for Amazon Prime Student (get the first six months free) and receive free shipping on all of your textbooks. It may not make the books much cheaper, but you can check out these 6 easy ways to get the absolute lowest prices on Amazon. You can also trade in your old books for an Amazon gift card at a relatively reasonable price. By being an Amazon Prime Student member, you also receive deals on study supplies, campus gear, and Amazon gift cards when you refer a friend.  Don't forget to subscribe to our Amazon coupons to get the latest information on the best Amazon deals and sales!
  9. There’s an app for that.
    Download apps like CourseSmart and BigWords to buy used textbooks at a much lower price as well as resell your old ones. Other apps for finding cheaper books include Cash4Books and Yuzu.
  10. Copy it.
    This one is only for dire circumstances but can work if necessary. If your course doesn't assign heavy reading, and you only need your book to read through a certain number of pages each week, go to the library and print copies of the pages. The plus side of this method is that you can easily hole-punch the pages, take notes on them, and arrange them side by side with your notes.

jacquelinebuch profile picture
Jacqueline is a modern day gypsy, who has lived in several countries and has traveled to over 20. A sucker for all things pleasing to the senses; her world revolves around food (any and all food), foreign indie films, and salsa music. The first to jump off a waterfall and the last to say no to sushi, she has been described as a bit of an “extremist”. In her perfect world, no one ever spells “cool” as “kool” and Ryan Gosling has more tattoos. She enjoys spending her free time in her New Orleans home with her Cubano guitarist husband and 1-year-old son.
deepak653Sep 16, 2017
Good tips :)
prettycareAug 14, 2017
thanks for sharing
amesGriAug 14, 2017
But I have graduated. Cry. Thanks anyway,
illiamYAug 13, 2017
Great help! Thanks!
WondercallAug 11, 2017
I agree
flyarsocietyAug 10, 2017
I agree, I have done all of these. Thank you for the resources. I think when I was a senior in college, I finally discovered cheaper options than just buying from the student book store. In my opinion that should be your very last option. I think I ended up buying books on Booksprice.com. That was a life saver because you can just type in a ISBN or book name and they compare the cheapest price from least expensive to most expensive. I think I ended up renting most of my books for like 1/8th of the cost. So glad I stumbled on them, and articles like these! Thanks
dtran5Aug 11, 2017
I agree with buying from the book store as a last resort! I mostly rented books or bought used versions from third-party sites. These text books can get incredibly pricey! You're very welcome for the article - glad it was helpful!
bjones_yJul 22, 2016
Ten excellent sources for students to save money. The problem is it takes time to look through all these sources. One solution is to use a textbook comparison site. A good price comparison site will also let you compare the different formats and even buyback quotes. I built www.cheap-textbooks.com to help me compare across over 50 sites and save a lot of time searching for the bestprices.
monster1991Jul 25, 2016
I agree! I used http://www.bigwords.com/ all the time back in college. It tracks down the cheapest available textbook (for rent or purchase) and it's basically a life saver haha

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