How I Saved Money on College Books

Going to college and looking for a way to save money on books? Buy them online or rent them through a program for an 80% discount. I used to buy all my college books online and saved myself time and frustration at the school book store.

Since I was an English major in college, it was easy for me to find the books on my syllabi on e-bay or Amazon (18th and 19th Century literature). The books cost a fraction of the price online than if I were to buy them at a book store. Also, most of them were sold by college students—now that’s recycling your books! It didn’t bother me that the books had highlights in them since I only needed them for one semester.

I looked for listings that said “gently used” or “good condition,” but the condition didn’t stop me from buying the cheapest listing. And not only did I find my literature books online, but I also found some textbooks by searching for the ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

If you’re an English major like I was, save yourself some money and purchase an e-reader. Most of the cannons are free downloads, and books in general are cheaper in digital format. Plus, you won’t break your back carrying 10 books to class every day. Here’s a list of the best budget tablets of 2014.

For example, the price of the newest edition of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is about $10 at Barnes and Noble. The website offers the NOOK download for $2.99—hello, obvious savings! Depending on which version you need (sometimes it doesn’t matter), Amazon has a different version of Sense and Sensibility for $3.99 and a Kindle version for $0.99!

Another option for you is to rent books through Amazon for an 80% discount. I never used this program, but my sister does—she’s still in college and is some sort of math major (those books are expensive!). Simply search for the textbook you need (by ISBN is easiest), and a rental rate will appear if the book you need is available to rent.

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Click on the book you want to rent to get to the book listing page. Then a box will appear on the right panel that has an option for “Rent.” After you select “Rent,” choose your shipping state from the dropdown menu. It will then appropriate the right amount, a due date for the book, and any rental details. Then click “Rent Now” to make your purchase.

You can also download etextbooks from Amazon. All you do is sign up for a free account, go to this page, and start searching for and downloading books. You can read them on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Rentals are available for 30 days to 180 days, but the longer the rental time, the higher the price.

At the end of each semester, I sold my books on e-bay or Amazon and easily made back my money. It was easier and all-around better than going through the expensive book store on campus, which sometimes cheats students if a new version of the book is in stock.

To return your rented books from Amazon, relabel the box it originally arrived in with a label the company provides. (I’m assuming you would lose access to downloaded books after your rental time and wouldn’t have to send them back.)

So cut your losses while you’re ahead and save money where you can. Comment with suggestions on how you save(d) money as a college/grad student!


Related Articles

U.S. News — “8 Ways to Save Money on College Books”

The (Book) Wormhole — “The Book Shopper’s Guide to the Galaxy”


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