How to Find Cheap College Textbooks

It’s back-to-school season, which means college students are on the prowl for cheap textbooks.

The average college student spends more than $1,100 a year on college textbooks. With textbook prices rising twice as fast as inflation during the past 20 years, I’d sure be looking for cheap textbooks if I was a student.

There are more options than ever to find cheap textbooks. You can buy used college books from a dizzying number of websites and you can also rent textbooks. There are also textbook aggregators that can pinpoint where the best deal is for each textbook on your list.

One of my favorite suggestions is to simply buy an old edition of a textbook. Usually the content hasn’t changed much, but an obsolete edition can cost mere pennies on the dollar.

Last week I wrote a post for my college blog on CBSMoneyWatch that lists seven ways to cut the price of textbooks. You can find more details on saving money on textbooks by reading that post:

College Textbooks: 7 Ways to Save Money

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also write college blogs for CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Textbook prices are quite ridiculous; they keep going up each year. However, over the years I have found numerous ways to save when buying my college textbooks. The best part is selling them when the semester ends and getting some money back.

    You mention renting textbooks; I see this becoming quite popular, however, I still haven’t grasped on to the concept.

    As far as getting a previous edition goes, I agree with you and I have done this often. However, there are professors who absolutely insist on students getting the latest edition…

    What’s your take on international editions?

  2. Lynn, I create supplements and ancillaries for college textbooks, so I know that there’s often not that much difference between the new edition of a textbook and the previous one, meaning a student can do fine with the much cheaper previous edition, especially if the prof tests primarily from what she presents in lecture.

    However, some subject areas do change quickly and the student will be best served by getting the new edition. A prime example is American government.