The College Student’s Guide to Getting Textbooks for CHEAP Online (& Selling Them!)
College – it’s expensive enough without spending hundreds on textbooks. Am I, right?
Thankfully there are more than a few places where you can get textbooks for cheap. Knowing where to to get the best deal on textbooks can REALLY take some of the stress out of the college experience.
Since stress can be damaging to my health, I say the less stress the better!
So in today’s post, I’ve come up with a list of 6 online places you can get textbooks for wayyyy less than retail. Not only can you buy them from these websites, you can also:
- Rent textbooks (a nice way to save $$)
- Sell textbooks
One of these resources even offers FREE textbooks – so helpful!
Check out my list of 7 places to get affordable textbooks below BEFORE heading to the campus book store. Your bank account will thank you!
Where to Get Textbooks for Cheap Online
My first recommendation when shopping for cheap textbooks online is Thriftbooks.com.
I’ll start by saying that Thriftbooks is my FAVORITE place to shop for books of any kind!
Because, they almost always have the LOWEST prices. And shipping is cheap – like, dirt cheap.
Thriftbooks offers FREE shipping on orders over $10 and on all other orders, standard shipping is just 99¢. Yep, it totally rocks!
They even deliver your book order in 100% recycled packaging. Ok, so you get it – I LOVE this website.
On it, are over 7 million used books and textbooks sold for very low prices. That’s A LOT of books!
Chances are Thriftbooks will have what you need for class.
There are a couple more ways you can save MORE money. You know, to really squeeze value out of every last cent you have to spend.
The first way to score extra savings, is to sign up for the Reading Rewards program (free to join). With it, for every $50 spent you get back a $5 off coupon.
For every friend you refer you’ll get a 20% off coupon (15% for non-Reading Rewards members)! Plus, a 20% coupon will be sent to your inbox on your birthday just ’cause.
Use one of those coupons on an order of already deeply discounted textbooks for maximum savings. Then, bask in all that money you didn’t have to spend.
OpenStax.org is a nonprofit organization that provides FREE textbooks. Yep – they are absolutely free!
Their library has over 20 textbooks available, the subjects include:
- Social Sciences
There are even 6 AP courses available at no cost, as well.
How do you read these textbooks?
They can can be viewed online, downloaded as PDFs or ordered as a printed copy. DO NOTE however, if you wanted a printed version it is not free.
If a class or two you’re attending is using a OpenStax textbook you’re in luck! This website is an AMAZING resource for cash strapped students.
See a complete list of institutions that have adopted OpenStax books here.
Another great place to shop for cheap textbooks online is Textbooks.com. Website name makes total sense here!
What should you know about this one?
Well for starters, they have 10 million new & used books for sale that are up to 90% off. This website also offers eTextbooks, you can save 20 – 30% off the price of a new book.
Being digital, they’ll free up some space in your backpack. And once purchased, they are available instantly – no waiting for the mail to arrive (a BIG perk if you’re late on getting textbooks).
Shipping is FREE on orders $25 – which is pretty decent.
What I dig most about Textbooks.com is:
The fact that not only will they BUY your used textbooks, but they will also guarantee 50% cash back on select books you purchase through the website.
That means that when you buy a textbook labeled “Guaranteed Cash Back” and sell it back to them in good condition at the end of the semester, you’re guaranteed to get 50% cash back of what you paid for it.
It’s kind of like getting your textbook for half off of an already discounted price!
If you do end up selling your used textbooks to Textbooks.com, it’s simple & easy to do. The shipping label is even free.
You can collect your cash via Paypal or a check.
All in all, Textbooks is another website that you might want to bookmark. The savings and money making potential are worth it!
Amazon.com is an obvious, may not-so-obvious, choice for getting cheap textbooks online. Just like you can find almost anything on Amazon, here you can find almost any textbook.
Types of textbooks sold here include new, used and ebooks. They will also buy your used textbooks in exchange for Amazon.com gift cards.
What makes this website a little more unique in the online textbook selling world, is that you can rent textbooks. There are rentals available for some physical and digital (Kindle) textbooks.
Rent a book only for the time you need it and save money!
How do rentals work?
Amazon gives you a due date for returning the book and if you need to keep it for longer you can easily pay for an extension. A return shipping label is even provided – no shipping fees to pay!
If you have an Amazon Prime memebership, shipping is FREE on almost all textbook purchases.
If don’t have Prime, that not a problem either:
Because college students can get a 6 month trial fo’ free! That includes free 2-day shipping, access to all Prime TV shows/movies and more.
The only downside I can see with Amazon, is that you can’t get cold hard cash when selling textbooks.
That just brings us back back full circle to the fact that they sell just about everything under the sun. Only being able to exchange textbooks for gift cards is hardly a drawback (if any) in my book!
Related: 17 Tips & Tricks to Make the Most Out of a College Budget
TextbookUnderground.com – you may not have heard of it before, but I for sure recommend checking their website when shopping for textbooks. On this website you can buy textbooks at low prices and, like Amazon, rentals are available for some. How much can you really save by renting? Check out this book for example; when comparing renting VS buying the savings are apparent and pretty significant! Textbook Underground also provides you with a shipping label when it’s time to return them – aka extra money you don’t have to spend. Plus: All rentals have a 15-day grace period: as long as your textbooks make it to the warehouse 15 days after the due date, no fees will be charged. The end of the semester can get crazy sometimes and that grace period is MUCH appreciated. BE AWARE that rental prices are subject to change on a continuous basis according to availability and price lists. So unless a textbook is placed into a cart, there is no guarantee of a quoted price. Lastly: What you may notice when browsing this website is that a lot of textbooks they are “selling” just link back to Amazon.com. However, I want you to know that they DO have their own book warehouse that they sell and operate from. Textbook Underground just has a smaller selection; which is completely understandable when comparing it to the vastness of Amazon warehouses. Again, I think this website is another place that is SO worth the quick search it takes to find the cheap textbooks you’re after.
As of March 2020, Textbook Underground is longer selling or renting textbooks.
The next online option for getting inexpensive textbooks I have for you is AbeBooks.com.
Thousands of independent booksellers – many of them local bookstores – list their new and used books for sale on this site. They claim that the competition between sellers in this marketplace ensures “prices remain cheaper than elsewhere”.
The really cool part about Abe Books is:
They also sell new and used international editions of textbooks for about 1/5th of the price of US textbooks.
What’s the difference between international versions and US versions?
International edition textbooks are created to be sold in different regions and are often printed on cheaper paper, and are usually softcover.
The contents may be exactly the same as the U.S. version, or may have small differences such as the book cover, ISBN, pagination, or region code.
AbeBooks offers FREE shipping on millions of books – and not just in the US! It’s super easy to search for textbooks with free shipping in Canada and free worldwide shipping.
One thing you’ll want to know:
The books sold on this website are sold by small stores in the US, so shipping times will vary. If you need a textbook ASAP, I’d try a shopping on one of the other websites.
Other than that, my take is that Abebooks.com is a SOLID place to start your textbook hunt.
No luck with any of the sites I listed?
If ALL else fails and you can’t find the book you need on any of the above sites, try TextBookly. It’s a website that compares textbook prices on a TON of different textbook retailers.
Checking your local college Facebook groups and Craigslist is a good idea, too!
Just remember, there are always ways to get around paying full price for textbooks. Avoid the campus book store at all costs –
One final tip:
Get started early when shopping for cheap textbooks online. Don’t procrastinate and be forced to pay full price because you needed it yesterday.
Related: Budgeting for College Students – 12 Simple Finance Tips for Success (FREE Printable Budget Template Included)
What’s your experience with these websites? Have you found lower prices elsewhere?
I’d love to know about it! Feel free to share you thoughts with me below.
Charlie is the co-founder of College Life Made Easy and author of the book 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College. She’s a 2015 graduate who teaches overwhelmed students and parents of students how to confidently navigate the whole college thing. As a former broke college kid, she’s passionate about helping students develop the skills they need in order to thrive (instead of just survive), stress less, and actually enjoy the full college experience.