How to Buy Textbooks Like a Graduate Student

Every quarter as an undergrad, I went to the bookstores and paid for either a used copy or, for the most part, a new copy. I started to see the light when it came to buying textbooks last year. Winter Quarter 2011 was when I found I was tired of paying between $200-$400 for textbooks every quarter, so I started checking out other options.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to keep textbook costs down:

1. – This is where it’s at. You can buy from Amazon directly or you can buy from an individual seller. Each seller has a rating. (Hint: look for sellers that would be shipping from somewhere near Ohio. I didn’t pay attention to this before and some of my books would take awhile to get to my apartment).

2. – part of e-bay, but it is where individual sellers put their books online. They usually have prices that are about the same as Amazon. This is all sellers though, so there isn’t an option to buy straight from them instead of going through a seller. The good thing is, they have some of the best prices.

3. Other students – For our program, a lot of us first year students have become friends with second year students. One of my friends saved some of her textbooks for this quarter, so she is letting me borrow her book. I’ve been told this program has really taken off in the School of Engineering, where textbook prices are even more outrageous.

4. Buying other editions – you can usually find older editions (if they are available) on or For MLHR, most professors are understanding that students have to watch their money with textbooks, so they don’t mind if you get a different edition.

5. Renting textbooks – I’ve never tried this option, but I’ve heard for some people it works out great. I think you have to do the math with this one, since some are cheaper to rent (like math textbooks or anything else that is really technical). Sometimes, however it is cheaper to just go ahead and buy the textbooks.

6. Sell your textbooks at the end of the quarter. This nice thing about this is when you buy your textbooks at a cheaper price from Amazon or, you can sell the books back to the bookstores and break-even. Again, this varies from textbook to textbook, but I’ve had some success in terms of getting most of my money back after buying online.

Plus, a bonus of buying online, is that you don’t have to deal with the long lines.

Happy Textbook Hunting!