by Shirley Fenlason

College textbooks may not be fun to think about, but they are part of your education investment. A 2005 Government Accounting Office report estimated textbooks cost almost $900 for the 2003-2004 academic year.

As a grad student, I would hit the three campus bookstores early in hopes of finding the best deal on used books in decent shape. I’d look for books that weren’t too marked up so I could make them my own (i.e., highlighting, notes). After completing the courses, I tried to make a little cash by selling some of the books back to the bookstores.

If you do your research, you may save some money. Things to remember:

  • If you’d like to keep the textbook as a long-term reference, you may want to consider buying it new.
  • Sometimes you can get a good deal on used books. But make sure it’s not an old edition where you’d miss updated material your professor or instructor feels is valuable and may be on a test.
  • For some classes, it may be tempting to share a text book with another classmate. This could work, however, keep in mind that your schedules may change during the semester. Ask yourself if you’ll have equal access to the materials throughout the semester or class.
  • See if you can borrow a textbook from a friend or classmate who’s taken the course.
  • Check out online college textbook sites such as,, and, etc.  Also and provide price comparisons between several online textbook vendors. Some online companies rent textbooks. Again, remember to check that you’re getting the correct edition. If the sites provide reviews of the textbook condition and/or customer services, it’s wise to read those. Upper classmen may also have ideas regarding reliable online vendors that provide quality customer service.

Another textbook option is the Kindle e-book by According to the May 6, 2009 New York Times, the latest Kindle, the Kindle DX formatted for textbooks, magazines, and newspapers, will be released for sale this summer. It will be pilot tested at six higher ed institutions this fall. Amazon also said “it had reached agreements with three major textbook publishers to make their books available in the Kindle store: Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Wiley Higher Education.”

One thought on “College textbooks: where to look for good deals

  1. Great list, another good one is textbook rentals. They allow you to rent textbooks for a fraction of the price of buying.


Comments are closed.