Cheap Textbooks

Bookbyte's comprehensive guide to getting cheap textbooks

Here's How to Pay as Little as Possible for Textbooks

This is our cheat-sheet of the top 3 strategies for getting your textbooks cheap, but we also have comprehensive articles that cover every conceivable way of saving money on your textbooks below.

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.

Strategy 1 - How to Overcome the Supply and Demand Problem

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in possession of a textbook must have overpaid for it. That is, if you live in the United States. Students don’t actually control demand in the United States, so textbook prices can rise and rise without any consequences for the publisher. Fortunately, there are a few ways students can get around the supply and demand problem they’re faced with.

>> Here we examine the issue of overpriced textbooks, its causes, and explore different ways students can tackle the abusive/exploitative practices they face from the textbook industry.

Strategy 2 - Buy International Edition Textbooks: Same Book, a Different Cover

International Edition textbooks are priced for the rest of the world (which means reasonably). However, there's a lot of mystery surrounding International Textbooks and the different places they come from around the world. Are the Global Edition and the Eastern Economy Edition the same, or is one better than the other? Is it even legal to buy International Editions in the US? (hint: yes it is)

>> Here we examine the legality of buying International Edition textbooks, the different naming conventions for International Editions, their risk factors for buying, and the best ways to find International Edition textbooks.

Strategy 3 - Use the Previous Edition: Big Savings, Small Risk

Textbooks are a lot like used cars: last year's model is cheaper and still drives, but it might not have the bells and whistles of the newest model. Often buying the previous edition of a textbook or a spiral bound version will save you a great deal, but you need to make sure the old version has the content you need before you buy.

>> Here we discuss the pros and cons of buying the previous edition, which fields of study are more likely to benefit from buying older books, and the importance of relying on your professor to save money on textbooks.

Strategy 4 - Buy a Used Textbook: Pay Less, and Get Help Taking Notes

If you're willing to buy a used textbook instead of a new one, you can save a huge amount of money. Most places sell everything from brand new to heavily used, but the terminology used to describe book quality can be confusing.

>> Here we break down the different used textbook descriptions so you know exactly what you’re getting when you choose a used book. We also examine the real reason used textbooks are less expensive, and the false novelty of being the first to own something.