The Textbook Hunt: Where, When and How to Look

By Garth Brunner on August 29, 2023

When you’re buying the required textbooks for school, you obviously want to get the cheapest price. Some of them can be really expensive, but you’re already shelling out a lot of money for school! So, where are you even supposed to start looking? Here is how you do it.

First of all, do not buy textbooks before classes start unless specifically told to do so. If your professor assigns work before the first class, then definitely get that book. But otherwise, hold off. Sometimes it’s in the syllabus, but there’s no required reading or assignments that need it. You definitely don’t want to waste your money on a book you never use! Your professor will tell you if you should get it. Sometimes, it might only be suggested reading to add more depth to your studies. That’s up to you if you want it.

A woman reading a textbook in a library.

via Unsplash

1. Previous Students

A good resource for your textbooks is a student that took that same class last semester or last year. They certainly don’t want that textbook taking up space, so often students look to sell it to other students. Secondhand books are just as good, if not better, than buying new ones. They might have previous highlights and annotations that show you what was important in this class. Look or ask in student groups on Facebook or other similar sites to see if anyone has what you’re looking for.

While they do want to sell it, it’ll be at a cheaper price. People want to help out their fellow students! Plus, you never know, maybe they’re giving it away for free!

This is also a good method to see if you actually need the book. Previous students who finished the classes you are in, especially with the same professor, will know whether or not you really use the book.

2. Chegg

Chegg is a great resource to look for your textbooks. Chegg rents them to you, so you do not have to buy them. You do, however, have to keep tabs on them! You don’t want to lose it, because you need to send it back at the end of the semester. Chegg even provides you with the shipping label.

Chegg also has a 21-day warranty! If you drop the class or find you do not need the book, you can return it to them and get your money back. They have the books new and used for a much cheaper price than your school bookstore has them. Of course, you have the option to buy with Chegg too. Consider what works best for you or if it is a book you might want to keep when the semester is over. Whether you enjoy it or it’s something you need for your entire college career.

3. Amazon

Amazon is also a good place to look for your textbooks! Like Chegg, they sell and rent textbooks to you for a cheaper price. However, they recently changed their rentals to only digital textbooks. If you’re someone who prefers to have a physical book you can write in and mark up, this probably will not be the best method for you.

However, you can still purchase your textbooks and even sell them back to Amazon. It’s a great resource to look at and use to save up to 90% on your textbooks.

4. School Library

Your school library will have at least one copy of every textbook your classes require. If you need a book in a pinch, it’s worth looking at, but solely using this method is not recommended. You cannot keep the book from the library for the entire semester and it is never guaranteed to be there if you need it because someone else might have borrowed it. It will also be tricky because if your textbook has not come in yet and you need to borrow one, someone else might be in the same situation.

While this isn’t the best method, do keep your school library in mind. You never know when you might misplace your book in the middle of the semester and they will have a copy to save you.

5.  School Bookstore

Lastly, never discredit your school bookstore. While this probably should not be your go-to because they typically do have high prices, you never know! Some textbooks might be lower there, or if it’s a rare book, your school bookstore might be your best bet. Usually, they sell used and new books as well as offer rentals, but you do often have to purchase them.

Some schools have days at the end of the semester where they will buy back your books, regardless of where you bought them from. This will vary from school to school, so it is something to look into. While you probably will not get all of your money back, it can be nice to get something. Be careful you do not sell books you are renting from Chegg or Amazon!

Before you make any textbook purchases, compare prices across all of these sources. Sometimes, your school bookstore might have a used copy for cheaper than other rentals. You need to do your research to ensure you get the best deal possible.

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