Here's How to Pay as Little as Possible for Textbooks
1. Rent Your Textbooks
The absolute cheapest way to get textbooks is to rent them. Even if you buy a textbook and sell it at the end of the semester, usually you'll still end up spending less overall with a rental.
Renting textbooks can be little strange for some people, since we’re used to owning things. However, if the textbook is for a general education class you aren’t passionate about, you probably don’t want to own the book anyway. On the other hand, it’s important to critically consider if a textbook will serve you after you graduate. If it will, by all means invest in purchasing it. If it won’t though, you don’t really have any reason to buy it.
Rentals are awesome too because they have variable rental terms that offer lower prices. If you only need the book for 2 months, rent it for 60 days instead of paying for a full semester’s worth of textbook.
2. Buy an Alternate Edition
The second best way to get cheap textbooks is to buy an International Edition.
These books are usually identical to the Student Edition of the textbook, except they are cheaper. The differences they do have are usually aesthetic or very small.
Don't judge these books by their covers, because cover art is one of the main things publishers change when creating an alternate edition. It may not have the same picture of a hot air balloon on it, but it’s almost always the same under the covers.
3. Buy a Previous Edition
Another great way to get cheap textbooks is to purchase the previous edition of the textbook.
Unless you’re buying textbooks for a rapidly changing field like computer science or biology, odds are the previous edition has the same material as the most recent edition. Previous editions are usually 60-90% cheaper than the most recent edition, too.
Purchasing a previous edition of a textbook saves you a great deal of money, but it does come with a degree of extra legwork. Most of the things will be the same between the editions, but when they aren’t, you’ll need to ask the professor for help or borrow the most recent version from a classmate or the library to make up for what your older edition lacks.
Be certain to do some research to make sure the previous edition of the book you’re looking at actually meets your needs before you buy it.
We cover exactly how little changes between textbook editions in our full article.
Bookbyte's Comprehensive Guide to Textbook Buying
“How to save on textbooks” guides can be a minefield of misinformation if they come from an untrustworthy source. Fortunately, we’ve been selling textbooks since 1999 and we’ve learned a thing or two about the industry.
These 4 articles outline the best strategies for saving money on textbooks and go into great detail explaining the ins and outs of the textbook industry, what risks you take when you consider the different strategies, and we include data that backs up what we say.
You want to know how to save money on textbooks? Here’s how.