Tips to make textbook buying less terrifying

College is expensive to begin with. Some days I feel like just walking onto campus drains my bank account. When I’m trying to figure out where my classes are and how difficult my class is said to be, the last thing I want to do is spend several hundred dollars on books I will only be using for four months.

I have saved many a textbook thinking I will reread some chapters for fun. I have yet to do so. In the meantime, they make great stands for my flowerpots.

In the interest of helping you retain enough money to add money to your meal plan in a couple months, I want to share some ways I have managed to save money on textbooks.


A large assortment of textbooks can be rented from the University Bookstore, BookHolders or Amazon. Renting a book that you will likely never open again is far cheaper than buying.

This takes away the option to resell when the semester comes to a close, but it is almost impossible to get even close to a full refund anyway. Renting may turn out to be cheaper than buying and reselling.

For example, “Business Law and the Legal Environment,” required for FIN 3054, is $349.95 new on Amazon. In contrast, renting the book until Dec. 20 is $54.80. Renting from BookHolders is $52.25.

For “Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change,” Amazon and BookHolders have roughly the same price, except Amazon has a rental option and BookHolders does not.

Go paperless

Whenever possible, I rent my textbooks through Kindle. An account is free, and they have a nifty app to download to your phone. You can buy or rent eTextbooks. The rental can last as long as needed. The months are scheduled on Amazon, which causes the price to vary depending on the length of time.

If you buy the book, it’s yours forever to access online, whether through a laptop, phone, tablet or an actual Kindle device.

Having the electronic copy makes it easy to read on the bus with a phone, and you don’t need to clear more space on the desk because it’s already on your computer.

Highlights stay even if the rental runs out. If rented or purchased again, the highlights and notes remain.


This might sound crazy, but wait as long as you can to buy books. Some classes do not even use the textbook. Unless the syllabus specifically states otherwise, you have at least a week after classes start to buy.

Waiting gives you time to confirm with the professor that the book is necessary for the class. The book can be acquired almost instantly through Kindle with the assurance that it will be useful for the course.

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