Tools for Success

Finding affordable college textbooks

By Sergio A. Lagunas @salagunas

I once heard a story from a former classmate that her father had a nice surprise waiting for her when she arrived home for a summer break after Fall semester. She had shared to her father that textbooks were expensive, so that was the reason why she could not afford to go home often during Fall or Spring semester. Her father had browsed all over town, and he bought her a collection of books on history, math and other subjects that he found at several yard sales. Althought this is an amazing story of a parent helping their child in college find affordable textbooks, there are aditional solutions to buy or rent your textbooks at an affordable price.

As an undergraduate student in the English major, I was able to find many free copies of literature works written by Charles Dickens,  Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman from a website called Project Gutenberg. This website has a lot of free eBooks and audio files from many subjects including philosophy, physics, chemistry, math, sociology and more.

When I could not find a free book online, I either went on amazon or other online textbook shopping options. Used books from local bookstores are sometimes sold at affordable prices. Recently, my sister needed to get books for her anthropology courses, and she could not find a cheap option for buying her textbooks new or used. She decided to rent instead of buying the textbooks, and she had the option of renting for only a semester. This allowed her to control the amount she had to pay to rent out the textbook, and the best part was that it was about 70% less expensive to rent the book plus shipping was free to return the book after the end of the semester. If you are in need of a textbook, and it will only be used on one specific course, the best option may be to rent this textbook.

Buying used textbooks can be relief for many reasons. Used textbooks sometimes have notes written on the margins, are underlined intentionally to mark important information, and can have random doodles to keep you entertained. the best part of used books is that it is a perfect option if you want to own this book for future reference, will need the textbook for a class in upcoming semesters, or prefer to read and make notes without worrying about selling your books with an attractive return on investment.

Overall, whether you need to buy or rent books, online textbook searches may benefit you to compare prices and get the best deal. Some students may find the whole search for affordable textbooks annoying; however, you will have more funding for other college related expenses when you save on textbooks.

Visit the University Plan textbook resources list for more information on finding affordable textbooks.