Top 8 Tips on How to Save Money on College Books

College is expensive, and between tuition, housing, food, entertainment, accommodation, tech gear, and more, it can be challenging to see how you’re going to find more money for all those books you need. 

Each class likely has a different textbook you’ll need, while other courses might have compulsory readings of classics. And that’s just the mandatory reading; there is no doubt a whole host of other books you’ll need for research and to improve your skills, never mind if you like to read to relax.

All those books can cost a small fortune, and with enough debt, as it is, you won’t want to put these titles on your credit card, or you’ll simply end up spending more.

Thankfully, there are various ways to save money on your college books. In this blog, we’ll look at just eight things you can do to make your money go further in this department.

Practical Ways on How to Spend Less on College Textbooks and Save More

From taking out books at the library to renting e-books online, paying for paperbacks, or looking for second-hand finds, there are numerous ways that you can spend less on your college textbooks and save money that you can use to pay off your student loan or save up for your first car.

1. Hit the Library

A young woman scanning a bookshelf
A college student picking books to borrow from the university library

Libraries offer many physical books idealized by many, but they also now have thousands of Ebooks available for free download. 

  • Use your library card: Using your library card is quite obviously the easiest way to access free books. One of the best features of using a library card is that you can reserve the books online and fetch them as soon as they are available.

  • Make use of your local library: Your local library or student library likely has a wealth of resources you can access for your classes. However, suppose you can’t find what you’re looking for at your local library. In that case, you should consider the inter-library loaning system, which allows you to borrow books from other libraries.

  • Buy from library book sales: Libraries accumulate thousands of books each year, and often they have to offload older books to make way for new ones. Thus, many libraries have book sales where you can get books for next to nothing in price. 

2. Go for Paperbacks

When faced with the choice of buying either a paperback or a hardback, make sure to choose the former to save your money.

These paperbacks will give you the reading content you desire for a fraction of the price of a hardback, usually around $10-$15 cheaper.

Furthermore, paperbacks are light, compact, and easy to move around with, in addition to being able to bend and be packed into the corner of a backpack without the worry of being damaged.

3. Use Secondhand Books

A young woman carrying a stack of books
A college student borrowing a stack of books from the college library

A thrift shop, such as Goodwill or Salvation Army, is one of the prime places to buy gently used books for a dirt-cheap price. Also, ensure to pay attention to the promo days where you can get 50% off of selected books at various online stores. 

Additionally, yard sales, which are usually seasonal, are an additional source of sustainable literature, available at merely a fraction of the price. 

  • Buy secondhand books online: Secondhand books will undoubtedly be cheaper than their brand new counterparts. Just because these books are used does not mean that they are necessarily in poor condition. However, ensure that you find the right places.

    There are various resources where you can find cheap, secondhand books online. One of our favorite places for finding second-hand books is on Carousell, with some selling for as cheap as $2. You can find second-hand books at Evernew Bookstore, Ana Bookstore, and Book Treasure, among numerous others.
  • Make a book trade or swap books: If you have plenty of books you no longer need or read and are looking to free up a bit of space on your shelves, then try and do a book swap. 

    Get together with your friends or post information on your college notice board regarding the books you have and what you’re looking for. You could also check out websites like, where you can swap your books with strangers online, further broadening your reading possibilities.

4. Rent a Textbook

We all know how the textbook scenario works, where students are required to spend as much as $100 for one book, only to use it for a semester while they figure out what courses they like and want to continue with. 

This is where renting textbooks can come in handy. Make sure to check out Campus Books, Valore Books, and Amazon for books you can rent for a limited time. 

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can also borrow textbooks and more from the Prime Reading catalog and read them on many supported devices such as any Kindle e-reader or the Kindle reading Apps for IOS and Android.

5. Make Use of Free Ebooks and Audiobooks Online

A young man wearing headphones and smiling to his laptop
A college student studying by listening to an audiobook

Instead of buying physical books, you may be able to find your textbooks online. One way of getting free Ebooks and Audiobooks online is through the Kindle App. The free app from Amazon enables you to read e-books on your computer, kindle, tablet, or phone.

You can find many great kindle books for free on Amazon, and Amazon Prime offers six months free to students with a subscription after that at half price. 

Audible also offers a free 30-day trial period and if you need to read some classics for class, while Project Gutenberg offers over 60 thousand free eBooks on their site. This includes titles such as Pride and Prejudice, Metamorphosis, and Frankenstein, to name a few.

6. Download the Kindle App or NOOK App

Through the Kindle and Nook Apps, you can borrow and lend eligible books at no cost. Amazon Prime members also have access to a library of 800,000 books for borrowing.

  • Borrow books on your device: All you need to do to borrow or swap books with other people on your Kindle device is the other person’s email address. 

    That said, an e-reader is not necessary if you want to read free classics or borrow books or buy e-books that are on sale. If you’re happy to read off your phone or laptop, download these apps above and take advantage of their deals and libraries.

7. Use the Library Chrome Extension

Library extension is a free extension for the Chrome Web browser. It enables the user to see instantly if the book they’re looking at online is available at their chosen libraries. 

After you have added it, start by clicking on the icon of the stack of books in Chrome or Firefox. Then pick your country and state, and find the name of your library in the dropdown. Click on add to add the library to the list of libraries in use. Finally, choose the catalogs you would like to see results displayed for.

8. Check out Cheaper Online Sites

You can save money on online books by downloading the well-known UK-based website Book depository.

You could also find some fantastic prices on Kinokuniya, which offers monthly promotions for selected books at 20% off, either online or in-store. Don’t forget to also apply for their privilege card membership which gives you a further 10% off.

Also, try checking out Open Library, Library of Congress, and BookRix for lower prices on top titles. One of the other best resources for cheap online books is the previously mentioned Project Gutenberg.

How Much Should You Budget for College Books?

Two young women and a man in the library
A group of three friends happily studying together

According to various figures, the average amount a student will spend on books at a four-year college is $1,240 per annum. That is why college students need to consider buying or renting textbooks or going digital to save. 

This figure mentioned above may not sound like a huge one in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an item that you can take a large chunk out of a student budget, especially when you still have to pay for tuition, housing, transport, food, and tech. 

Failing to have the book required for the class could adversely affect your grades, but thankfully, as you have read, there are alternative ways of acquiring the textbooks you need at a fraction of the price.

Do you have any tips on saving money on your college books that we haven’t covered here? Do share your advice with us in the comments below.

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