Tips and Tricks to Cut Down the Cost of Textbooks in College

by | Nov 22, 2022 | Admissions

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The cost of textbooks in college can be a significant expense in college abroad. According to a report by College Board, full-time undergraduate students at four-year universities spent about $1,240 annually on textbooks and supplies.

Book expenses can limit your access to courses. Many students take fewer classes or even withdraw mid-semester due to textbook costs.

For international students, it’s important to manage finances wisely. Without the benefit of familial support, financial emergencies can be especially stressful.

In your first semester abroad, you might not know the tips and tricks to keep your book budget at a minimum. As you continue to interact with your peers and professors, you’ll learn great ways to cut down your book budget without adversely affecting your education.

There are many ways that today’s college students can cut their textbook costs, expand their selection, and save money. In this guide, we’ll explore some practical ways to decrease the amount of money you spend on textbooks in college or university abroad.

Get Digital Versions of Textbooks

A great way to reduce the amount of money you spend on books in college is to get their digital versions. Digital versions tend to cost a fraction of what hard copies of textbooks would as they don’t require printing and shipping.

If you don’t mind reading from your laptop or phone screen, digital textbooks can be a lifesaver. There are plenty of online platforms where you can buy e-textbooks at affordable prices. These platforms include:

Most textbook publishers also offer digital versions⁠—which you can purchase and download on the publisher’s website. In addition, many digital textbooks can be rented for a period of time, just like print textbooks.

Find Used Textbooks

Another great way to save money on textbooks is to buy them secondhand. You can save up 30-40% by buying used books.

If you don’t mind reading books with scribbled notes, you can enjoy awesome discounts purchasing used textbooks. However, make sure that the version is compatible with what’s required for your course⁠—if in doubt, ask the professor.

Where can you find used textbooks for college? There are many places where you can buy used books at discounted prices. Some of the websites that sell etextbooks also sell used versions of college textbooks.

Here are some of the best places to buys used textbooks:

Rent Your Textbooks

If you need the textbooks for only a short term, renting instead of buying is a great option. This alternative is popular with college students⁠—45% of college students report that they rent textbooks required for their courses.

Renting books can typically save you 50% of what you’d have spent on outright ownership of new textbooks.

However, be wary that rented books (and other used textbooks options) may not give you access to required online course materials. In such cases, the only option is to buy either a new copy or the access code separately.

Many platforms selling used books also offer textbook rental services. Here are some of the best places you can rent college textbooks:

If you opt to rent textbooks, keep track of the return dates. Failing to return books in time can lead to late fees⁠—driving up your costs. In addition, you must take care of the books and return them in pristine condition. Books returned in poor condition can cost you your deposit. Don’t forget to take shipping costs that you may be charged.

Borrow Textbooks from the Library

Universities and colleges abroad have well-stocked libraries where students can borrow books at no extra cost. Most university libraries put books required for courses on reserve⁠—enabling students to access required course material for a few hours or days at a time.

When your university library falls short, don’t forget to check whether the local public library has the textbooks you need.

Time Your Textbook Shopping Wisely

To save money on textbook expenses, it’s also important to consider timing. To get awesome book deals, make sure that you don’t buy when everyone else is buying. When the demand is down, sellers are more likely to have discounts on textbooks.

That might mean buying your books early, if the course syllabus is available. Early book shopping also gives you the opportunity to compare prices both online and offline, ensuring that you snag the best deal.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Many bookstores have student discounts on textbooks. Such discounts may not be advertised⁠—so make sure to ask before making your purchase. You’ll have to show your student ID to claim the discount.

Often, schools partner with bookstores and publishers to give their students better deals. Check out whether your college or university has any such deals.

The student clubs and organizations you’re involved in may also negotiate textbook deals for their members. Make sure to check the benefits that come with membership in various student clubs and organizations.

Use Open Source Options

Copyright free textbooks are often available to download at no cost on open source websites. In recent years, many colleges abroad have started providing free online Open Educational Resources (OERs). Such open resources contain textbooks, software, and other tools that aren’t copyrighted.

Some of the best open sources for college textbooks include:

Look for Textbook Scholarships

Some universities and organizations have scholarships specifically meant to help students cover textbook expenses – some even catering to international students only. Check whether your school has any such scholarships and apply.

In addition, research online for textbook scholarships that you may be eligible for.

Consider Inclusive Access Courses

A growing number of colleges and universities abroad have adopted Inclusive Access Courses⁠—where online materials are included in the cost of tuition. In such cases, the schools partner with publishers to get bulk access to e-textbooks. This saves students money on textbooks and course materials.

If you’re looking for schools abroad, check whether they offer inclusive access.

​Sell Your Used Books

If you have to buy new hard copies of your course textbooks, you can recoup part of the cost by reselling them at the end of the semester. Check whether bookstores near you will buy your used textbooks.

In addition, there are a ton of Facebook groups for students at the institution where students can buy and sell old books. Usually, you can find these groups by quickly searching for Facebook groups related to your school.

Another option to check out is online retailers. They’ll buy back textbooks at a slightly discounted price.

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