How to Never Pay for College Textbooks Again

Thirty percent of the debt students owe after college graduation is due to the high cost of textbooks. Okay, I totally made that up, but it could definitely happen! Especially if you're one of those rare people who still buys books from the campus bookstore and purchases the recommended readings.

College textbooks are fucking expensive, and there's no nicer way of putting it. With new versions constantly coming out, it's sometimes hard to find a used copy on Amazon that won't arrive halfway through the semester. After spending multiple years avoiding buying books at all costs, by my senior year I had a full proof method to never having to spend more than 100 per quarter on books. And even in those situations, I always made sure the book got passed on to someone next quarter, cause karma and stuff.

Since most of you reading this are either broke or cheap, two things I definitely was while in college, here are my tips for never having to pay for college textbooks again.



Visit your campus library.

While most libraries keep textbooks on reserve, meaning you cant check them out for more than a few hours at a time, novels usually go by different rules. If your course is asking you to buy a copy of a novel, chances are your library has a copy you are able to check out for weeks instead of hours. This is a great option if you are an English major who is faced with buying dozens of books every semester.

Rent books on reserve.

This isn't an ideal situation, but great for courses where you won't be needing to use the book on a regular basis. We've all taken those classes where we only open the book before an exam, and we know which subjects we won't waste time reading the book as the class goes along. Pinpoint which courses only use the book partially and which you won't be reading regularly, and instead of purchasing the book take a few hours a week to go visit your library's copy.

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Swap textbooks with friends.

If you live in any type of campus housing, this is your best option, especially if you're early in your undergraduate degree. The first two years of college consist of thousands of people taking the same prerequisite classes, which sets you up for the perfect book swapping situation. Round up a large group of people and see what books everyone has accumulated. You can choose to just swap for the semester or permanently, depending on how attached you are to the books you bought.

Search online for a free version.

When my best friend told me she had been using free PDF versions of textbooks for years, I was 1)pissed she didn't tell me about this sooner and 2)shocked that was even an option. There's no real rhyme or reason to which textbooks you can find online for free, at least not that I've figured out. Usually the older versions are up online but if you're searching for something like a history textbook, chances are nothing more than the page numbers have changed. My recommendation is that you search the book title along with 'free pdf version' to find the best results.

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Scan someone else's copy.

I'm not encouraging you to violate copyright law, or whatever those posters above all the printer/scanners on my campus say, I'm simply encouraging to get your reading done by any means necessary. Your campus will have a book on reserve, I've never heard of a college that doesn't. Instead of taking the book and reading it for those few hours it's yours, walk over to the scanner and make yourself a PDF copy. Emphasis on yourself! If you are jailed for selling an illegal PDF copy, that's on you, we were never here.



What's your best advice for saving money on college textbooks? Do you always buy used or try to get by without them at all?

13 comments

  1. Ugh textbooks seriously are so expensive! I made the mistake of my first year of undergrad buying all my textbooks from the campus bookstore! Nope. I rented from then on forward.

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    1. My freshmen year I actually bought one of the recommended books! Didn't make that mistake twice!

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  2. My school library rarely has the books I need so I usually rent it from Amazon but I found this website recently that compares prices from major sellers- http://www.tun.com/book. it's pretty neat.

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    1. that's terrible!! My university was required to always have at least one library copy available, thank god for things like Amazon!

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  3. Textbooks can be SO expensive. Great tips that I know are going to save a lot of people a lot of money!

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    1. thank you! I definitely had no idea when I started so if I can save one person 50 dollars I've done my job!

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  4. in my day, ebooks weren't around, nothing was digital. you legit had to go to the LIBRARY and photocopy shit or copy everything by hand or suck it up and actually buy the book! i photocopied most of my uni books for most of my years.

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    1. I had a friend who would photocopy all of her business books, which were at least 300 pages! She's the one that started me on just making my own copies

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  5. These are great tips since books can be sooooo expensive, especially if you're never going to use them again!

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    1. the only time I ever bought a book is if I knew I could sell it next semester, otherwise I quickly realized you don't really NEED it if you attend class regularly

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  6. Great tips! I realised that I never really use my textbooks might as well just borrow it from the library.

    Anna | Anna Czarina Blog

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    1. there were some books I caved and purchased, but my rule was if the book wasnt needed in class, I generally didn't purchase it

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  7. These are great ideas!

    I usually end up only paying a few bucks for my textbooks because I buy them on Amazon and then resell them again on Amazon immediately before the next semester. (I've even lucked out and made money a few times.)

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