Best Ways to Get Textbooks for College

Gathering supplies can be a stressful experience, whether you’re anticipating your first year of college or dreading the pre-term mad dash. Thankfully, the digital age is making it easier to buy, sell, and trade just about anything online—including college textbooks. Check out these Web resources and other helpful tips for alleviating the hassle (and the cost) of getting the books you need.


When you can avoid it, wait until after the first class session before buying the required book(s). That way you won’t get stuck with a pricey book in the event that the teacher places little emphasis on it or you decide to drop the class.

Once you’re sure which books you’ll need, find the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for each, which will help you search quickly for titles in bookstores and online. If you plan to buy locally, remember that off-campus bookstores usually offer lower prices.

On the Web, larger online booksellers such as eBay and Amazon can sometimes offer better shipping rates than their smaller counterparts, but you might have more luck finding what you need through vendors who deal exclusively in college textbooks, such as these for example:

Here are some additional tips for finding the textbooks you need for college without breaking the bank:

  • Search campus-wide message boards or your school’s MySpace or Facebook section for students who want to buy/sell their books.
  • Check the campus library for loaner copies.
  • Share a book with a friend or classmate, photocopying important sections prior to exams.


Selling books back at the end of the semester can sometimes be disappointing, since textbooks completely lose their value if they are not selected by the university for reuse. Here are some options for maximizing the return value of your saleable used books:

  • Sell to friends and classmates.
  • Sell back to on- and off-campus bookstores.
  • Compare shipping rates and consider selling your books to an online textbook retailer.

If you find that there is no cash-back value on your books, but you don’t want to simply throw them away, consider donating your old books to schools, libraries, and correctional facilities. Inquire about book donation programs with your university or visit for a list of opportunities.


Many colleges and universities help to facilitate textbook swapping both as a money-saving solution for students and an environmentally-friendly alternative to printing new books. Visit Web sites such as and, where you can search by state or school for other students in your area who are interested in swapping books. As with any transaction that originates online, you should exercise good judgment and caution when making book trade arrangements independently.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.


  1. Heather

    I had a great experience selling back my textbooks to They paid for shipping, and they provided free tracking for my books. Once they received them, they paid fast by PayPal.
    Thanks for the great tips. It’s greatly appreciated by college students.

  2. Nathan

    I’m surprised to see you don’t have other big sites like or listed. In addition you don’t list any of the large textbook rental sites like or

    You also don’t list any of the great iPhone or Android apps out there that make buying cheap textbooks even easier. I use “BookSeach” from because it lets me take a picture of the ISBN bar code and it automatically compares prices on new, used & rental textbooks for me.

  3. Suzie Shepheard

    This is really a topic that drove me crazy. Every semester I had to buy new expensive textbooks and didn’t know where to sell it because it was really confusing to check out every single online selling website to see which of them pays you the most. Lucky me I found a website that compares all these different sites and show you immediately the best price. This website ist called Just to check it out how to sell books here is the link:

  4. alex

    There’s a lot of different websites buying used textbooks. You probably heard of,, sell or Me I just want to sell it and get a good payout. But seriously some websites offer you 5 bucks more !!! So I spent like hours looking for the best price, finally sold that biology textbook I never wanted to see again and my friend told me the next day he sold his for 22.40$! I sold mine for 16$ and I tell you my textbook looked way better than his!! So next time I looked for a price comparison for textbooks and found that page. They don’t have all the websites but at least 20 different. And you really get an idea how much you can sell your textbook for. Just take a look if you’re annoyed. I use it sometimes and it helps me a lot. that’s for selling books and textbooks

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