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How to Compare College Textbook Prices: A Guide

college textbook prices

Every single college student has been there. During your very first semester, you probably bought every one of your textbooks immediately, straight from your university bookstore. 

You didn’t know of any other options, so you just wanted to get them as quickly as possible so you’re ready for the semester. No one wants to be missing their books on the first day of class. 

But what if there were other ways to have those books in time, all while saving money? Most students spend over $1,000 on textbooks alone each year. That doesn’t have to be the case for you.

Comparing college textbook prices can be such a helpful tool while shopping for your textbooks. Keep reading so you can learn where to start.

Talk With Your Professors

Before you start comparing textbook prices, you’re going to need to figure out exactly what you need. It’s best to check with your professor because many college textbooks have multiple editions that may have different material. 

Professors will almost always have all class materials listed in their syllabus. It’s mandatory at most colleges for each professor to have a syllabus, as it’s an essential tool in fully preparing you for a class.

More recently, many professors have also switched to using digital textbooks. Sometimes they can provide them for free, but sometimes they require payment. 

Professors are usually willing to help you and are happy to help you save some extra cash. They’ve been through college too, and they know how pricey everything can get!

Use Online Resources

When it comes to comparing college textbook prices, the internet is your best friend. There are so many resources that can help you get the best deal.

There are options to buy or rent used textbooks, sites to find digital textbooks, and even ways to sell old textbooks. Regardless of what you’re looking for, using the internet can help you find exactly what you need.

A helpful tip is to list each textbook that you need. Once you have a list, write down each price that you find while doing your research. An organized list can help you easily compare prices and ensure that you get the best deal overall. 


Renting is one of the cheapest and smartest ways to buy your textbooks. If you know you won’t need the textbook after the semester ends, why hold onto it and pay extra money for it? 

Renting an old or new textbook is often much cheaper than buying them when they’re brand new. You can rent a textbook for less than $20 when some books can cost hundreds of dollars at a time if you buy a new one.

You will receive information on how and when to return the textbook depending on where you rented it from.

If you rented from your university bookstore, they will usually have set dates at the end of the semester to return them. If you’ve rented from an online service, you may have the book for a longer time, but you’ll still have a certain date that you’ll need to return it by. 


There are some situations where you can buy your textbooks and still get the best price. If there’s a textbook you know you’ll need for more than a semester, buying also may be your only option. 

Lucky for you, there are still plenty of ways to buy textbooks without spending a fortune. Buying used textbooks is one of the best ways.

One of the greatest benefits of buying used books is that you can get the most information out of the text. You can keep it for reference if you need it for other classes, and you can write your notes inside. 

Many textbook rentals do not allow you to write in the books at all. This can be difficult, especially if the textbook is for a hands-on subject with lots of important information. 

If it’s a larger textbook, some professors may only cover the most important points in the book and skim over the rest. But there might be lots of other interesting information you’re missing out on if you’re in a rush to return the book. 

Digital Textbooks

A newer way for college students to get their material is through digital textbooks. Sometimes, professors will offer an access code for these so that you can have them for free.

Other times, you can find a digital version of a textbook that is also sold as a hard copy. Digital copies of textbooks are usually offered at a reduced price or sometimes even free, depending on where you look. 

Before you choose to do this, though, be sure to check with your professors. Some may not allow laptops in class and prefer that everything is on paper. 

Buy and Sell

Another great option to save money and even make some money is through buying and selling your textbooks. Many online sites allow you to sell old textbooks for the highest price possible.

You might not make a ton of money doing this right away, but you’re still guaranteed to get some of that money back. You can even make it a side project if you’re looking to get rid of lots of old books at once. 

Many universities also have buyback opportunities. When the semester is coming to an end, check with your bookstore and see what their options are. 

You’ll usually receive your payment in cash or through Venmo, Paypal, or even store credit depending on where you sell your books. 

Finding the Best College Textbook Prices

Seeing college textbook prices can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the college world. You’ve already been overwhelmed with plenty of expenses already, from tuition to housing and meal plans. 

Although those prices can be stressful at first, there are plenty of ways for you to save money and get the best deal possible. 

If you visit our site today, you can easily search for any textbook you need. Whether you want to rent, buy, or sell your books, it’s never been easier. 

As always, we’re happy to help. Visit our site today to start your textbook search and get ready for your semester. 

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.