College Hacks: Where to find the cheapest textbooks

Illustration by Sarah Butler
Illustration by Sarah Butler
Illustration by Sarah Butler
Illustration by Sarah Butler

Ah, textbook shopping. Every college student’s dream. As if piling up student loans wasn’t enough, those loathed textbook prices add insult to the tuition injury.

Don’t be that guy (or girl, *cough* me *cough, cough*) that forgoes buying textbooks altogether – but also don’t be that person who buys textbooks at full price at Barnes & Nobles down the street. It may be close and a convenient fix, but trust me, paying $100 for a textbook that you can find for a quarter of the cost is well worth the longer journey.


You’ll likely find some of the best deals on Amazon and chances are you’ll be able to locate most – if not all – the textbooks you need this semester. That is, assuming it’s not a self-published version that your professor exclusively has sold at the campus bookstore. If that’s the case, I’m sorry for you, and I dislike your professor.

Still, Amazon can help you save some serious cash, and they have both renting and buying options for most books. Plus, to top it off, at the end of the semester you can always sell those books via Amazon (or any of the campus book stores like Virginia Book Company and Bookholders) to get some of your money back.


I have to say, this is probably my favorite name on the list. Affordabook lets you search for your textbook and the site will lead you to a page showing its availability and prices across 20 or so different online stores.

Not a bad deal. Additionally, Affordabook also gives you the option to find books to either purchase or rent.

Ah, yet another comparison site! I’m starting to see a pattern here, how about you? Needless to say, Bargain Book Mole allows users to compare book prices across selling platforms – but it does have something the sites above can’t give you. With Bargain Book Mole, you can download a browser add-on in addition to the website, making a quick search simply one click away.


Last but not least, it’s worth a shot to check out BookFinder, especially if you’re looking for an international version of your textbook. While this site still allows user to compare prices to find your best options on buying and renting books, it has a special focus on international editions. These can include books written in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian or Spanish.

Maybe you’re studying abroad this semester and want to give yourself a bit more of a challenge to get over this whole language barrier thing. If that’s the case, BookFinder may be the best site for you.

This project may not be most ideal for STEM majors, but has aggregated hundreds of classic literature titles and authors in a free (free!) online PDF form. Definitely worth checking out — even if you’re just looking for something to read in your spare time.

BookBoon is another site with hundreds of free PDFs available to students. These books probably won’t appear on your syllabus as they’re written by independent academics, but could serve as helpful supplements to your course materials. Why not check it out? (Keyword: free.)

All in all, purchasing textbooks sucks. That’s an undeniable fact. But it’s nice to know that, with a little bit of research, you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars this semester on books that will inevitably collect dust on your bookshelf the second finals are over.

Online News Editor, Maura Mazurowski

Maura Mazurowski, photo by Brooke MarshMaura is a junior cinema and journalism student. She’s interested in combining investigative journalism with filmmaking, and is a contributing writer for the online publications Elite Daily and Literally Darling. Before transferring to VCU, Maura was an editor for the student newspaper at Virginia Tech, the Collegiate Times. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Portfolio

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