Tips for Hunting Down Used Text Books

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October 20th, 2008 in Books, Resource

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Used Text Books

One of the greatest challenges of college can be paying for all of your expenses. While tuition costs have gone up over the years, there are increasing numbers of scholarships and students loans that you can borrow from to help ease the transition into the workforce. What many first-time students don’t fully realize is how expensive a set of new text books can be. As college courses become more demanding, professors are adding increasing numbers of books to their syllabus, further increasing the out of pocket expense at the beginning of the semester. Certain science books can cost well over $100 dollars, and many students spend thousands on new books every single semester.

While, to some extent, this cost is inevitable, there are ways that you can lower this cost basis through buying used textbooks. Just as you spent countless hours researching the best school for you, it’s worth your time to invest in finding the best prices on your textbooks – added up, you can save several hundreds in shopping at one source over another. An additional factor to consider is that you’ll want to make sure you shop well in advance, so you can have enough lead time to allow for shopping and potential shipping times if you buy on line.

The beginning of the semester is filled with the excitement of a new set of classes, meeting up with old and new friends as well as a new energy on campus. So, make sure you get the most out of the semester by making smart book buying decisions. This guide will help you understand your options in shopping for used and new text books, and, when you combine all of the potential suppliers, can help you save money that will come in handy later in the semester when you’re taking breaks between study sessions.

Campus Used Book Store

The most prominent, and the first, place you should check as a source of potential text book savings is the campus book store. Since your on-campus book store will likely carry nearly all of the titles that you need, it’s a good place to check for used copies returned from other students.

Often, you’ll be able to locate the same book for half the price by choosing a copy used by another student the previous semester. Make sure you pay close attention to the condition and quality of the books in the store, as they tend to vary widely from barely opened (or perhaps never, it does make one wonder) to thoroughly used – choose the former, as it will increase the likelihood of the book lasting through the semester, as well as increasing the resale value of the book at the conclusion of the semester.

Campus book stores will often feature sales or discounts for high amount purchases, so make sure to factor those into consideration when making price comparisons. Coupon books distributed throughout campus might contain additional discounts which you can apply at the campus store, so keep your eyes peeled for ways you can save on your campus store purchases.

It’s good to start on campus because many of the books might be relatively rare, as instructors often select non traditional books written by academics whom they are familiar with: their professors, colleagues or research associates which might not have vast distribution outside of campus. Always mark down the prices that you find on campus, so you can compare with other sources.

Kijiji, Ebay, Craigslist and other Websites

When you hop on line to do some comparison shopping, you’ll want to make sure you find the proper edition of the book you’re looking for. Many books come with an edition number, but, to be safe, you can compare the ISBN which is a standard number that can be used to identify a book precisely. An additional factor to look out for here is the presence of “international” paperback copies of common textbooks, which may have contents that vary from the domestic versions and might have page number or chapter differences that can throw you off. Play it safe by making sure that you have the exact edition that you need when shopping on line.

Once you’ve confidently identified the book that you need, a good place to start looking for books are the major auction sites including eBay. These sites will often feature bargains for those who place the right bid, as well as offering buy it now options at relatively low prices. If you participate in an auction, make sure to take careful note of the end date, so you ensure that you give yourself ample time by the end of the auction to allow for shipping by the end of the solution. For sellers across the country, it can take up to a week to ship your texts, and express shipping can add up to $10 to the cost of a book, if not much, much more.

Shipping costs can often make or break on on line book purchases – some sites offer low cost shipping or free shipping over certain amounts, although other sites might charge a high rate to ship heavy books, so always look at a bottom line price when making a purchasing decision.

Amazon also features a market place where you can find used books from sellers that might be priced well below those elsewhere. Beyond auctions, it’s important to look at classified sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji which will often feature students looking to sell their books from the previous semester, especially if they’re graduated. You can also post a “books wanted” post to see if anyone searching might be selling the books you’re looking for.

There are also other sites which aim to help you in your textbook search such as Campus Books, and Alibris, all of which provide a full database of used book sellers from around the country. Some schools might offer their own sites where students can swap books, so you can check there as well. Just as you can find discounts for on campus purchases, Internet book sellers often have coupon codes and special savings you can utilize – do a search for store coupons before making your purchase to see if there are ways you can save even more off the standard price.

Posters Around Campus

When starting a new semester, students will often post flyers advertising their books for sale. You might happen to stumble upon a student clearing out the right books, or, even better, find a group organizing a used book sale or swap, which will help connect you with the books you need. An additional option is to post a wanted poster for the texts you are seeking. If you know your classes well in advance, make sure to keep your eye out, as a lot of students look to unload their books at the end of the previous semester, which may provide an opportunity to save some major cash.

Local Printed Classifieds

Both University student papers and local community newspapers contain classified ads where you can often find books for sale as well as wanted ads. Make sure to glance over these, as you can generally find some pretty good deals here, especially if you start looking well in advance of the semester.

You can also consider running an ad with the books you need for the forthcoming semester to see what types of offers you might get. Keep in mind that some students might drop courses, giving you the opportunity to secure your books before the end of the previous semester.


Make sure to compare all potential sources of books, so you can secure your books in advance and save hundreds in the process – over the course or years, this can add up to a pretty significant amount.

  • 1

    Jim States

    October 27th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for listing the great resources for getting the used textbooks. When I was in school, I had hard time looking for used and affordable textbooks. Thanks to the online resources like,, and other classifieds site, students today can buy them at reasonable prices.

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