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How to Buy Textbooks (A Beginner’s Guide)

It turns out that textbooks are like, HELLA expensive. Just, so expensive. So costly. Too much. A student who has their first semester of Many Required Textbooks can really face some sticker shock when it comes to getting their books. But fear not! Here are some tips to HALVE your textbook costs this semester!

Check your school’s library for books before you buy them. A lot of textbooks are held at your school’s library, as are books for “supplemental reading.” Go online and check the library catalog and you might find out you don’t need to actually get half your books! Warning: plan ahead if you do this and do your readings/homework early. If someone else has the books when you need them and stuff is due the next day, you might be SOL.

Look for rentals before you buy. I was going to buy a used copy of the textbook for my business class this semester, a class I don’t think I will every directly use. It was going to cost $200, used. Upon check-out though, I found out I could rent it, instead, for $100. Since there was no way on earth I was going to be able to sell it back for more than $50, I rented it in a heartbeat. That is the kind of stuff you should look for!

Ask around to see if friends have a copy. I’ve sold music history textbooks for probably less than I would have gotten from the bookstore, just because it was a friend who asked for them. I’ve also borrowed textbooks from friends who had already taken the class, then given the book back so THEY could sell it back the next semester. Game the system.

For workbooks and lab books, split the cost with a friend and scan that shit. Unless your teacher is super super strict, this should be fine. Science people – double check with your professor. This has worked in gen ed labs in the past, though.

If you HAVE to buy, buy the previous edition. It can be the difference between a $200 book and a $30 book. All for two extra paragraphs in chapter 5.

For sheet music: Check IMSLP and CPDL! Free sheet music. Enough said.

If you’re supposed to buy an online passcode, DO NOT BUY until you find out whether you will be graded on anything it contains. Don’t waste $150 like I did last year. If you’re not graded on it, it’s 99% of the time not worth it.

You can rent books through Chegg, Amazon, and Bookbyte, and compare rental prices at I also have had really good luck getting cheap books at, which has FREE SHIPPING if your order is more than $10! PLUS 15% off your first order! I swear this is not even a little bit paid promotion I just love Thriftbooks okay.

Good luck with your textbook hunts, my friends!

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