Seven Tips to Lower College Textbook Costs

As an Oregon State University student from 1999 – 2003, I must admit that I didn’t know much about how to save money in college.  I wasted a LOT of money on my college textbooks.  For example, I initially just assumed that I needed to buy all my books from the college bookstore.  Wow, was I wrong! But, you don’t have to make the same mistakes that I did, and waste all of the money that I did!  Here are some great tips to lower the cost of college textbooks:

  1. Once you register for classes, your college should give you a list of ISBNs for the books required for your classes.  Get your ISBN list as soon as possible to start shopping. The longer you wait until the start of the semester/term, the higher the prices will be.
  2. Buy used. There is a lot of hype right now around textbook rentals and e-books.  But, as the example at the bottom of this post shows, it is almost always better to buy used and then sell it back at the optimal time of year (see #7).
  3. Only buy used textbooks from sellers with great feedback. Look for sellers in the online marketplaces with at least 95% positive feedback, but preferably 98-99% positive.  The seller should also have at least 500 feedback ratings over the past year, to ensure they are reputable.
  4. Buy from a company or seller in your state, or in a nearby state.  Most used textbook sellers will use standard “media mail” to ship your book.  That can take 14-21 days when shipping from the east coast to the west coast, for example.  Buy from your state, or a nearby state, to minimize this risk and receive your books in 4-6 days versus 2-3 weeks.
  5. Buy from sellers that take the time to describe the textbook’s condition in detail.  You may need to know if the textbook comes with a CD or DVD, for example.  Not all sellers will indicate this, except the great ones like Okay, as the owner of McKenzie Books, I might be a bit biased but seriously the quality and detail of a book’s description is indicative of the quality and care of the seller.
  6. Ask your professor if it is OK to use the old edition of the textbook.  Many times it is, and if you can use the old edition, this can save you a HUGE amount of money!  When you register for classes, many colleges will provide the email address of the professor.  Send an email–it doesn’t hurt to ask!
  7. Sell your textbooks back in August or January to a reputable buyback company.  The reason you want to wait until August or January is because that is when the highest demand to BUY textbooks will be.  And, where there is high demand, there is high buyback prices for you to sell!

We here at always aim to please our customers with our textbook buyback service. We offer free FedEx shipping on most textbook buybacks, no PayPal fees, no minimums, a convenient and free iPhone App, lightening fast payment processing, and excellent customer service (a live person will actually answer the phone, unlike other companies).  You can also sell your other used books back to Cash4Books at the same time you sell your textbooks!


To expand on #2, above: In a recent study that I performed, the textbook Psychology by David G. Myers (ISBN 9781429215978), was on average $79.46 to buy used, $73.14 as an e-book and only $58.49 to rent. However, selling back the book for an average of $45.61 meant that the total cost of ownership was only $33.85 for those students who bought and resold the book. That’s a whopping $24.64 cheaper than renting, and $39.29 cheaper than the e-book.


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