Textbooks 101: Getting an A in Smart Shopping

Every year, college students—from the bottom-of-the-totem-pole freshmen to the too-cool-for-school seniors—review financial aid packages, set funds aside for room and board, and make travel plans for breaks and visits home. They think they’re in the financial clear until they remember one vital expense—textbooks.

For full-time students, textbooks are one of the single biggest out-of-pocket expenses. On average, students will drop $700 to $1200 or more on textbooks per year. Not all courses permit the use of eBooks, so paper it is, but if books aren’t ordered in advance, students resort to purchasing through university bookstores that rarely offer the most competitive prices. Students can avoid being raked over the coals when buying books by shopping around for the best price.


Compared to a university bookstore, Amazon seems like an obvious choice, but to make the most out of the buying experience, it takes time to use this site to its fullest capacity. Amazon is competitively priced for both new and used books. Search Amazon for novels, literary anthologies, and other English-related texts. However, shipping is where Amazon makes bank (up to $3.99 per item), so it’s worth signing up with Amazon Prime as well as registering a school-issued “.edu” email address for discounts on shipping. The downside, on average, is that Amazon’s standard shipping time can take up to several weeks.


Designed specifically for students, Campus Book Rentals offers some of the best prices on rented books in courses with books that have short academic shelf lives like the sciences and mathematics in particular. With a wide variety of stock, Campus Book Rentals rates high for extras like book returns and rental extensions. The service offers students a 30-day guarantee by which students can return books for a full refund. There’s also a 15-day grace period for any student who needs a book just a few days more. Finally, the service offers decent buy-back prices for books students already own as well as insurance options to protect rented texts from theft, loss, and damage.

Students don’t need to be afraid of buying textbooks from several sites to ensure maximum savings. By shopping smart and shopping early, students can save money in spite of high textbook prices.


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