Textbook tips

(Photo Illustration by George Walker | The Collegian)

Buying textbooks is not an easy task. Some vendors will sell you the book you need for more than it’s worth, while others won’t guarantee to buy your book back later and if they do, it’s a fraction of a fraction of the price you paid.

In 2014, U.S. Public Interest Research Group discovered that the average college student spends more than $1,000 a year on textbooks. Sounds crazy right? But according to Mark J. Perry, professor of economics and finance at University of Michigan at Flint, textbook prices increased by 161 percent between 1998 and 2014 and are up 945 percent since 1978.

So where are the hottest places to buy textbooks from? It all depends on the type of service you’re looking for.

Low price

Finding the cheapest textbooks can be time consuming, but with websites like Amazon, Chegg and textbooks.com comparing prices has never been easier. All three websites allow students to find the best prices for textbooks from the comfort of their homes. The convince plus the pricing makes them a popular place to get the job done.

Amazon offers a standard price for textbooks if students are looking at purchasing a new copy. Chegg prices tend to be a bit lower, but not always by much. More often than not, both companies tend to be within cents of the other’s price.

Textbook.com may be a bit pricier than both Chegg and Amazon, but the buy back guarantee is attractive to many students. Textbook.com offers to buy books back at a guaranteed 50 percent cash back. This percentage might sound lame but, compared to getting a $60 for a $200 from other places, this is a great opportunity for students interested in lower priced materials.

If you think renting a textbook will be cheaper than buying new or used, Forbes contributor Rob Berger’s article, “Seven Tricks To Save Big Bucks On College Textbooks,” argues that while “initially the rental prices appear attractive, keep in mind that you can’t sell the book back. When you buy new or used textbooks, you can recoup some of the cost by selling the books after you’ve aced the final exam.”

E-textbooks are also available for use and can be a much cheaper solution to the textbook pricing problems. USA Today article, “Three easy steps to saving money on textbooks,” warns that this option may not be as “cheap as buying the book used, but at least you won’t have to deal with lugging a 3-pound textbook around campus.”

They are right. The e-textbook version of that giant calculus book will definitely not strain your back on the way to Cardwell, but not all teachers are fond of technology in the classroom. Make sure the professor allows electronic device use in class before selecting this option.

Fast arrivals

Paying for shipping is a pain, but Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping. A student membership costs $49 per year. Not all products are eligible for prime shipping, however, and even some prime offers require a certain amount to be spent before having access to the offer. But hey, it arrives two days later.

Chegg and textbook.com both have different shipping offers that require a certain amount of money to be spent. Recently, textbook.com offers free shipping if you spend at least $25. When textbooks are in the shopping cart, that is definitely not a problem.

All three sites allow you to navigate outside buyers to find cheaper prices with different shipping rates. There are plenty of other sellers that provide textbooks for cheaper prices for both new and used. The price may seem like a miracle, but make sure you watch out for the shipping cost; the shipping cost could make that cheaper option more expensive.


Textbooks bought online are usually a bit cheaper than in-store purchases. But that doesn’t mean they are always going to be more convenient. Students can find decent prices for textbooks at the local bookstores like Varney’s in Aggieville and the Campus Store located in the K-State Student Union.

Bookstore books tend to be a bit more expensive than online purchases, but the convenience of last-minute textbook shopping can be worth the price, especially if students need their textbooks the first week of class.

Both bookstores have access to the required texts for each class, so students can be sure they are getting the correct edition. That being said, make sure to double-check the items required for each class before simply showing up. Chances are you aren’t the only one who has put off buying books and holding up the line will not be a pleasant experience for the first week.

All of the above

For textbooks that are cheap, have fast arrivals and are convenient, looking to friends and family is the best option around. Approaching people you know about renting, borrowing or even buying their used textbook is never a bad idea.

First off, the price will be fair. Friends and family had to pay an arm and a leg for this book and they know that it’s not worth it. Chances are they will be sympathetic and offer a discount or possibly give it away for free. With the prices they offer, borrowing, renting or buying from friends and family is definitely the cheapest way to go.

The speed of the delivery from these people is up to you. Besides the occasional out-of-state individuals, the books are usually within reasonable distance for picking them up within the week of the agreement. Make getting the book a priority and it could even be same day “delivery or pickup” if you plan it right (that’s faster than Amazon Prime).

They may have old notes in the margin or highlighted important ideas that could be useful when it comes to that midterm. Scribble notes in the margin from a stranger’s book might not make sense, but deciphering a friend’s handwriting will be a bit easier. The lender might even remember enough of the subject to help study or answer questions.

Whether you borrow from a friend, use that Prime shipping or walk on down to Varney’s, textbooks are not cheap, but actually reading them could make the difference between an A and a B.

My name is Jamie Teixeira and I am a senior English and journalism with a minor in Leadership. I am the president of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, a tutor at the K-State Writing Center,and a member of the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble. My future plans are to become an editor or publisher of children's literature. Outside of school I love to read and cuddle with my kitten, Bert.