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  • Look for deals outside of the campus bookstore, such as local bookstores or online, especially for rentals or used textbooks.
  • Check out the public library, find free digital versions online, or share books with peers to save money.
  • Sell your used textbooks at the end of the school year to help pay for next year’s books.

The non-profit College Board® estimates that college students spent, on average, about $1,200-$1,400 on books for the 2022-2023 school year. With a little planning and some creativity, here are some ways you can bring those sky-high book costs down to be more budget friendly.

Shop around

You don't have to shop at the campus bookstore. Many liberal arts classes, for example, use books that are commonly read outside of college campuses. This means better deals can be found elsewhere.

Start by checking bookstores near your college or even those online, which may stock textbooks and common literature titles at lower prices than at the campus bookstore.

Visit the public library

For classic works of literature, you can also visit the public library to sign out books for free if you are unable to find what you need from your campus library. In addition to borrowing free books, you can also use the library’s online resources to check out eBooks at no cost.

Search online for free digital copies

Another way to save on books is to search for free or low-cost versions of some classics that may be available online. Google, Amazon, and Scribd offer some free books online in addition to their discount book selections. Some schools may have such books too. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hosts a free version online of "The Odyssey. " If the book you are downloading is a translation, be sure to check with your professor that the version works for your class.

Buy used textbooks

Another option to help you save on textbooks is to buy used books that are in good condition. You can find them for a fraction of the cost from your college bookstore, local bookstores, and online. If you find an older edition at a great price, always double-check with your professor to make sure the version is acceptable before you buy it.

Share with your classmates

Consider pooling resources and sharing books with your peers who are taking the same classes. While it may require some coordinating, like scheduling study sessions or making sure everyone has fair access to the books, the savings can be worth it when you share the purchase price.

Rent textbooks

Why buy when you can rent, especially if you’re not going to keep a textbook at the end of a semester or school year. Many bookstores, both brick-and-mortar and online, offer textbook rentals at attractive prices. While renting may be a great option, always read the fine print. Make sure you understand all of the terms so you don’t incur additional fees or charges.

Sell your books

Textbook buyback programs are a good option to consider as well. You can sell textbooks at the end of the year to the college bookstore, local shops, or online booksellers, and apply the money you earn for next year’s textbook purchases. Make sure you keep the books in good shape so you can reap the maximum value.

You can also look into selling textbooks directly to fellow students. Without the bookstore’s cut, you might be able to receive a little more. Or you can post books for sale on Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, or similar direct sale sites.

College Board® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.

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