Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Great Textbook Debate

As a college student, there are few things I despise more than buying textbooks. Considering my tuition rates keep rising steadily each semester I'm in school, the last thing I want to do is spend even more money on books for those classes I'm already paying a pretty penny to attend. Especially books I may or may not use and may or may not find helpful.

Alas, buying textbooks is inevitable. You can try to avoid it (and may even be successful a time or two) but eventually you will have to buy a textbook. And in my opinion, if you have to buy something, you might as well get the best deal! Right? Right.

So without further ado, here are my tips for buying textbooks. Renting, buying, new, used, bookstore, online. We are covering it all today. 


Ahh, one of the greatest questions when it comes to college textbooks, do I rent or do I buy? 

Biggest Renting Pro:

- You save your money up front. This can be especially helpful at the beginning of the school year when you might be coming across many school related expenses at once. The price to rent a textbook for one semester can sometimes be significantly cheaper than the price to buy the book. 

Biggest Renting Con:

- It's not really yours. That's right. The book does not belong to you, you are simply borrowing it. This may make you uneasy for a number of reasons. 1. If you lose it, you have to pay for it. 2. If any damage is done to the book while in your possession, you have to pay for it. 3. There may be certain rules as to whether or not you can highlight/write in the book. 4. You can not sell the book at the end of semester. When you return the book at the end of the semester you will not receive any sort of buy back deal, since you already saved your money up front when you chose to rent it. Which brings me to my next point...

Biggest Buying Pro:

- It's yours. You can do with it what you wish. Highlight your heart out if you desire. And most of all, you get to choose what you do with it at the end of the semester. Buying gives you the opportunity to sell your book, either to a fellow student or back to the bookstore. Meaning, you could end up saving the same amount as if you rented it. It is simply a matter of saving your money now or later. (But let me just say that most bookstores offer next to nothing for textbooks so the chance of saving more than renting or even the same amount is slim.) 

Biggest Buying Con:

- Buying will always cost more than renting. Sure, you can possibly sell the book, but there is always the chance that the bookstore will offer a very low amount for the textbook or may not even take it back at all. If there is one thing I have learned in college, it is that new editions of textbooks are constantly being printed. I mean constantly. If a new edition of your textbook is being used for the next semester, there is a good chance the bookstore will not offer you a buy back deal as they are no longer in need of that text book. So not only did you miss out on saving money by renting, you are now stuck with a book that you probably have no use for. 


This comparison is far less complicated in my opinion.

Buy those babies used. Because...why not? You will save money. Always. Every time.

Unless it is a workbook in which you take a chance on pages being used or torn out by the previous owner. In this case ( and this is the only case I can think of) it may be worth it to buy new if you have to worry about having to borrow someone else's workbook to copy your missing or already used page. 

However, many colleges do not sell "used" workbooks for this reason. They only offer them new so this may not be an issue.


1. Only buy the textbook if it is absolutely necessary for the class. Many professors may "suggest" other books to "supplement" your learning. Don't fall for it. It is 2013. Any information that you need to "supplement" your learning, can be done with a simple google search. If they comment on "not using the textbook much" or "their lectures do not follow the book" or "the tests come from the lecture, not the book" these are all red flags that buying the book for the class is a giant waste of precious money.

2. Your college bookstore. Avoid it. Of course I learned this the hard way. As a college freshman ( before I knew anything about... well anything,) I found myself at my University bookstore. Bad idea. In my 3 years of college, I have never found a book cheaper at my University bookstore than an outside source. You can and will find cheaper prices. And if for some reason you can't, it NEVER hurts to at least try to "beat the bookstore." Promise. 

So where should you get your textbooks from? There are many many many choices. However, the best experience I have had has been with Chegg. Chegg is a very easy to use website that offers college textbooks at an amazing discount. I usually save hundreds of dollars every semester simply by renting through I simply search the ISBN of the textbook I need, choose if I want to rent or buy, (and if I want to rent for how long) and badda bing badda boom. My checking account loves it. At the end of the semester, I simply box them up, print out the pre-paid shipping label, and send them back. Easy as pie.

I have also rented from and like them as well. To find the cheapest price on a textbook I use bookfinder. com. A nifty little tool on the website helps you compare multiple prices on the internet and find you the best deal. 

3. Be a bargainer. Although they don't publicly say it, most bookstores (local bookstores, not University bookstores) will price match. Don't be afraid to mention that you can find a book cheaper online. They might just make you a deal you can't refuse. 

Phew. So that's about it. I'd like to mention that there will be a corresponding video to this blog post up on my Youtube channel with in the next few days in which I will share more personal experiences/stories about college textbooks. 


  1. great blog post! I will definitely be checking out those websites when I start college this fall! Thanks for the advice!! :)