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Whether you need traditional or digital textbooks, you can buy or rent them from multiple sources.
Most students still buy their books from the campus store. According to 2017-18 data from the National Association of College Stores, 4 in 5 students reported purchasing course materials from the campus store; 41% reported buying from Amazon; 8% from another student; 8% from a publisher website; and 6% from the online retailer Chegg.
Textbooks, like supplies and other college expenses, are considered part of your cost of attendance. That means you can use your student loans to pay for them. But before you dip into your loans or your college budget, find the cheapest option.
Is it better to rent or buy college books?
Students at four-year colleges spent an average $1,240 on books and supplies for the 2018-19 school year, according to the College Board. You can keep your costs low by renting a book instead of buying it.
The textbook site CampusBooks.com has a “Buy vs. Rent” tool that compares the cost of renting with owning a textbook. For example, the textbook “Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics” has a list price of $82. A used version from the seller BooksRun.com is $33. But it’s cheapest to get a $20 rental for 88 days from Amazon.
Buying used books and reselling them when you no longer need them is a way to reduce your upfront costs and get cash back later. If the textbook is common or used every year or every semester, you’re more likely to resell it.
Whether you rent or buy a used book, find out from your teacher if an older edition is acceptable. Sometimes old versions might not include everything needed for your course.
Options to buy, sell and rent textbooks online
You have plenty of options when it comes to places to buy, sell and rent your textbooks, but buying online is the easiest way to compare prices. Search by title, by author or with the codes that identify specific book editions, known as ISBNs. When buying online, factor in shipping, handling and taxes to the total cost. These sites are good places to start.AbeBooks.com users can save from 50% to 90% on textbooks, many of which have free shipping. The site's Textbook Buyback feature allows students to sell their books for cash.
Amazon users save up to 85% on textbooks and can access free two-day shipping with Prime Student. You can buy, sell or rent ebooks and textbooks and make returns within 30 days for a refund. You may get a new or used textbook, based on availability.
BookFinder.com compiles the cheapest options from 100,000 sellers. Its users can save up to 90%.
BooksRun.com users can buy, sell or rent textbooks and ebooks. You can save up to 60% buying or renting ebooks, and shipping is free on all orders.
CampusBooks.com is a marketplace for new and used textbook rentals from various online vendors, at up to 87% off. Compare book prices using its “Buy vs. Rent” feature. Users get free shipping for renting and returning. You also have the option to buy your book, as well as a grace period for returns.
CheapestTextbooks.com users can get up to 95% off new and used textbooks and 70% off rental books. You can also sell books and ship for free.
Chegg customers can save up to 90% on textbooks and ebooks. Buy or rent books with 21-day risk-free returns in case you drop or switch classes. You also get free shipping on orders over $35.
No matter where you get your books, compare multiple stores and online marketplaces to get the lowest prices.