Searching for the Best Textbook Prices

It’s something every college student should do before paying the high prices at your college bookstore.

It’s that time of year again. Many college students on the semester system are going back to school, and those on the quarter system (those students in UCLA and OSU, for example…) can expect college right around the corner. Many people are likely thinking about which laptop is the best to purchase, how many tickets to football games you want and that darn parking pass. But what about books? There’s a cost that sort of slipped my mind, but I’m glad to have thought of it today. Not only was I able to get it solved for myself, I wanted to share some tips on how to find the best deals.

First off, recognize that your campus bookstore has everything, and it has everything conveniently for you in one place. Because of that, it’s going to be costly. In fact, it’s usually the most costly way to purchase books. There are definite advantages to shopping at your campus bookstore, of course. Every other method I’m going to mention requires you to wait for the books to ship to you. If you’re already in a time crunch, you may want to dish the big bucks to them just so you have all your books. But realize the options the Internet has for your book shopping. is a college student’s best friend. Most of you probably already know of Amazon, and have used it before. When I was younger, my mother had always recommended it to me because she was able to purchase her and my older sister’s textbooks for as much as half off of what she would have paid on campus. The only real drawbacks to Amazon are the wait and you need a credit card or be willing to use you bank account as payment. And don’t forget the $3.99 shipping fee for used textbooks. But other than that, you’re going to find great deals this way. I’ve sometimes been able to purchase a textbook brand new for a cheaper price than the used price at my bookstore. All new items you purchase directly from Amazon will qualify toward free shipping, as long it it’s over $25. In general, though, you’ll be safe with used textbooks.

I’m usually hesitant to pick up random fliers on campus. After all, you never can trust a flier that guarantees beer for $1 for those under the age of 21 since it’s illegal. But one that I’ve seen for many months around campus around these times is for a website called Trusting Amazon and of course my bookstore for credit card transactions anyway, I had to visit this website with a grain of salt. However, I was pleased with what I found. The website compares many sites on the Internet that have your textbook on sale. First, search for your book. Then when you’re sure you’ve found the correct one (check for edition and author, as a picture isn’t always available), click “Compare Prices” on the far right. It will then pull up another browser window and display your results. You’ll recognize some sites that come up, but others may be more foreign to you. I would suggest going to the far right and organizing the search results by “Total Cost”, because it includes shipping, tax and such. While I only found better prices for three of my books using this site and methods listed above, that’s still 25% of my purchases; any time I can save money is a good thing.

A few other tips I have are some you should keep in mind. First off, while I found better deals on than my campus bookstore most of the time, it was only a savings of $1-5. Because of the variant shipping times and a small risk of the book getting lost, saving just a few bucks probably isn’t worth it when you can just safely grab it for a little more money at your campus bookstore. Here’s something else to keep in mind. While I recommend you purchase and use the required books for your courses, I have found that there are some classes that a few weeks in, you realize you won’t practically be using your textbook for the rest of the semester. At least for my bookstore, there’s a pretty gracious return period for used books of about three weeks after the semester starts. Purchasing from your local bookstore allows for this kind of easy return.

There’s another tip on that note. If you find a better deal online, by all means purchase there. But if you run into a long wait for the book to come in, you may want to take advantage of the gracious return period at your bookstore. If you have extra money, why not purchase the book at the bookstore. Then when your inexpensive one from the Internet arrives in the mail, return the other one to your bookstore for a full refund. I ran into this once before, and as long as you take care of the extra copy well, then you should have no problem returning. Be sure to check the return policy to make sure that there are no frills, but colleges are usually pretty good about letting you return. This also helps if you end up dropping the class, too.

One last tip is to make sure you purchase the correct textbook. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your course syllabus should make it clear which book you need. The most helpful thing is having the edition and year of the exact book you need for your class. Your campus bookstore will have the correct copy of the book you need, so you may want to peek in there once before buying books online or elsewhere. But be particular about checking which book you are purchasing online. On Amazon, sellers are supposed to check to make sure the book they have in their hands is the same edition as what you clicked on. If you are not sure, even then, you can always e-mail the seller of the book. That includes sites like eBay, which can have the best price, sometimes. Taking an extra minute to confirm on both your syllabus, with your professor and then when you are purchasing can you save you unnecessary grief later on.

With that, I hope that I have helped another college student with their textbook search. Please leave comments with any other tips (or corrections, if any) as I want to make this post a small forum for helping others with this process. Thanks for reading!

4 pings

  1. […] First, I did some browsing at some of my older posts and wanted to redirect your attention to a post I made about a year ago that, I must say, should prove to be very helpful. It’s a post made more as a guide to college students for finding the best deals on textbooks. We all want to save some money, especially with our economy is this lil old recession that we’ve got here. So, I’ll link that helpful post here. […]

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