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Finding the best deal on college textbooks

Students can get digital textbooks on their iPads
Students can get digital textbooks on their iPads
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

College textbooks cost a fortune. Expect books to run $400 or more per semester. Finding the best deal on college textbooks helps families keep college costs under control. There are more choices than ever when it comes to purchasing textbooks. New and used books are tried and true options. However, the best deals on college textbooks may be rentals or digital formats.

Campus Bookstores
Campus bookstores are usually run by a large book distributor such as Barnes and Noble. Most bookstores offer new, used, and rental textbooks. You can sell your old textbooks back to them for credit. Shop around for the best price on new and used books--campus bookstores do not always offer the best pricing. Check Amazon and Barnes and Noble for books in digital format. This can save you a bundle.

Local Bookstores

Off campus textbook stores are popping up everywhere. The usually deal in used textbooks, but many will have new ones. The advantage of a local bookstore or campus bookstore is that they carry the books used by local colleges. You can sell your used books and get credit toward this semester’s books.

Online Options
Shopping for textbooks online is a daunting task. Read each vendor’s policies carefully. Some offer free shipping, others offer great deals on rental books, most will purchase your used books.

Amazon offers students with a valid college email address a subscription to Amazon Student. If you have never used the service before, there is a 30-day free trial period. Students can order new or used textbooks and get free two-day shipping if the textbook is available through Amazon Prime. They also rent textbooks. If you send them your old textbooks, they will issue you an Amazon gift card worth up to 80 percent of the book’s retail value.

Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble offers textbooks in print format. You can choose to purchase or rent your textbooks. Rented books are returned through UPS at no charge. The company no longer offers digital textbooks for use with the Nook device. Yuzu is a company owned by Barnes and Nobel. There is a Yuzu app for iPads. You can also access it through their web app. Barnes and Noble pays cash for used textbooks. offers good deals on used college textbooks. They are a collection of different used book dealers using the website to sell their books. Check the ratings of any vendor you are thinking of buying from. Shipping is extra, so be sure to add that into your cost comparisons. is another venue for selling your used textbooks. If you sell your books on, you receive money not a gift card.

Flat World Knowledge

Flat World Knowledge is a great resource for textbooks in digital format. They are adding more books each year. The selection is still somewhat limited when compared to others, but if your book is available here, chances are it will be at the lowest price available. Digital books will save a lot of space in you backpack. Lugging around heavy textbooks for three or more classes every day is not fun.

Textbook rentals

Renting your textbooks may be a better option for you especially if you are a freshman without books to sell. Make sure you check pricing for digital and print books before deciding on renting. Sometimes purchasing a used book is less expensive. Things to look for when renting textbooks are; flexible rental terms, the ability to extend the rental period without penalty, a free 30-day return policy, and free return shipping.

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