College Textbooks: Beg, Borrow or Buy?


The one part of college I always disliked was buying my textbooks for the semester. For my pre-law classes, the prices were brutal and I had few opportunities to find a used version of the titles I needed. It didn’t take long for me to realize the insanity of buying new books from the campus bookstore; I would pay anywhere from $50 to nearly $300 a book, but never saw much of that money back at the end of the semester. The books were either not being used the next semester or they were being replaced with a new edition. Even when I did get something for them, it was barely enough to buy lunch. After two semesters of spending over $500 on books, I decided there had to be a better (and cheaper) method. With a little research, I soon found some reliable websites that allowed me to find the very best deals on my textbooks. Here are a few websites that I found easy to use and also offered great deals.

This website is completely free; no listing fees, no registration fees and no seller fees! Students simply register for an account and connect with other students at their school or in their area. Students can either trade or sell their books, and then arrange to meet on campus to make the exchange. The service was created by Tom Chomiak, a 2007 Loyola University Chicago graduate, and is maintained by interns. The only requirement for registration is that students have a college email address (.edu) and be currently enrolled in school. Currently, the majority of users reside in the Chicago area, but students from anywhere in the U.S. can set up an account and start connecting with students on their campus.

Students can register for a free account and find other students in their area who are interested in trading or selling their books. Adding textbooks to their ‘wish list’ will also alert students to offers within their area. For those who sell books to students outside their area, there is a 10 percent commission fee. Payments are processed through PayPal or by check, depending on the seller’s preference. offers one of the best guarantees among online textbook retailers. Students have up to 30 days to return their purchase for a full refund, no questions asked. Students can also swap or trade textbooks with other students for free through this service. Other features include a textbook comparison tool, course reviews and ratings, and a semester planner.


Several colleges now host Facebook pages where students can post listings for books they need or are trying to sell (or trade). Baker College and Broward College both host pages, and there’s even a Facebook app called Textbook Exchange that allows students to buy and sell books through their schools on Facebook. Students can conduct a simple search on Google (I used ‘college textbook exchange on Facebook’) to see if their school currently hosts an exchange. offers one of the most comprehensive comparison tools for renting college textbooks. Students simply search by title, author, keyword or ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and receive a listing of available books. The comparison table allows students to see what the books will cost if purchased (new or used), rented (55 days, 85 days or per semester) or sold. There’s even information on available coupons or deals, as well as the shipping costs. has rapidly become the leader in the textbook market space. All purchases come with a 21-day guarantee (14 days for eBooks) and students can receive their items within two days. Students can easily compare the rental, purchase and eBook price before making their decision and many titles also offer an additional textbook solutions manual (additional fee). The company also gives back by planting a tree for every purchase, planting more than five million trees to date.

This service offers a unique program for students called RentBack. Students do not sell their books, but instead allow to rent them to other students, over and over again. Every time their book is rented, students get paid! Unlike other rental services that only offer two or three periods, this service actually allows students to select from four set periods or create their own return date. Shipping is completely free. is one of the most popular online textbook resources for students. Students can shop for new, used and eBooks, as well as compare rental prices. Students can also receive free, 2-day shipping when they join Amazon Student (free for six months). For each person they refer to the program, students can earn a $5 credit, as well.

This website is particularly good for English majors. It offers both textbooks and popular literature at very low prices. Best of all, the company offers free worldwide shipping on every order. Better World Books also supports book drives and collects used books at over 2,300 college campuses. Every time students buy a book, another book is donated to someone in need.

This service provides free shipping on orders of $25 or more and they even offer the international editions of many textbooks, which can save students some serious cash. For those selling their books, they can get upfront offers and even ship the books for free. Students can also earn some cash by selling their used movies and video games, or pick up some new ones at rock-bottom prices. Students should think carefully before deciding whether they will trade, rent or purchase their textbooks. Trading can be a wonderful thing if students work with other students they know and trust, but not all students are honest and may disappear with the books. When renting textbooks, students should understand that they will probably not be able to write in the margins or scribble other notes in the books. Many rentals also do not include the supplemental discs that may come with the new editions. Those who have a difficult time remembering due dates may also incur late fees, if they fail to return their textbooks on time. Some rentals may even be more expensive than purchasing a new or used edition. Students should take the time to conduct a thorough search of available options and use several services before making a final decision, as it could save them hundreds of dollars over just a few semesters.

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