How to Save Money on Textbooks

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  • The price of a college education is rising every year. In fact, the average tuition cost for one year at a public university is now at $17,000, and that’s not including the many other expenses that students are expected to pay. As any college student should know by now, one of the biggest expenses they will have besides tuition is buying their textbooks. New college textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars (the textbook market itself is worth $8 billion), and in the four years that a university student is expected to attend college that can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are several things that a student can do to save some money on their textbooks

    Buy Used

    Most college bookstores sell new and used textbooks. This won’t be an option for some classes if they switched to a new edition for a book, but most classes will allow students to use textbooks that are one or two years old. Most of these books will be in good condition, and they will be a lot cheaper than newer books. If you can’t find any used books at your campus bookstore, check out sites such as or eBay for books in "like new" or "very good" condition.

    Buy eBooks Instead

    If you have a Kindle, a Nook or some kind of tablet that can read ebooks, take the time to look for digital versions of textbooks you will need. They will still carry price tags of around $100, but chances are that they will be a lot cheaper than the hard copies you will find at your school’s bookstore.

    Look for Free .pdf Copies

    This can be a long shot, but sometimes textbooks turn up on the Internet in the form of .pdf files. A good place to start looking is a site called Flat World Knowledge. Many of their texts can be downloaded and used free of charge, so take a look around. You might find at least a few books that are in your syllabus.

    Look in Your Campus Library

    Your campus will almost certainly have a vast library, and chances are they will have some of the textbooks that you need for your classes. If they do, you can check them out as you need them as long as you don’t deface them in any way and return them in the condition you received them.

    Ask Your Friends

    If you have a lot of friends who are taking or have taken the same courses as you, take the time to do some networking and see if any of them have textbooks that you can use. Chances are that you can set up a trade or buy their books at more affordable prices than what your campus bookstore is asking.

    Sell your Used Books

    Once you are finished with your textbooks and you know you will never use them again, you can always sell them for some extra cash. Many campus bookstores will buy books back from students at the end of a semester, and although they won’t pay anywhere near the full price for them, it’s still a great way to save a little bit of money. Alternatively, you can also sell your textbooks online through sites such as Craigslist, eBay or

    This article was contributed by Mike Gordon, graduate student, eReader enthusiast and penny-pincher extraordinaire. If a cheaper, easier educational experience sounds right for you, Mike recommends checking out Practical Nursing Online to find LPN programs you can do from the comfort of your home.

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