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College Textbooks that Don’t Break the Bank

As a service member, you probably are like most people and you don’t attend a college that provides free textbooks. If the idea of paying $200 for a textbook leaves you shaking your head, don’t worry. There are a few ways to save money on textbooks.

Buy Used: Buying a gently-used book is a great idea, especially if the textbook isn’t one you plan to keep. Typically, used books are still in good condition, but may have some highlighting or marking in it. You can also find used textbooks online on sites like (run by eBay), and Most campus bookstores have a good selection of used books, but to find the best selection, you need to shop at least two or three weeks before class starts.  
Find It Free: If you’ve been assigned a classic literature or history book that is no longer copyrighted, it might be available for free in a virtual library. Visit Project Gutenberg, Bartleby, or Googlebooks online to and do a search – be sure the ISBN, title, author, publisher and edition number are identical to what your instructor has assigned for class. Some of these sites will even let you download the book to your computer or smartphone.

Swap It: Web sites like Textbook Revolt and are usually run by students for students. Think of it like a virtual bulletin board where buyers and sellers find each other. Post the books that you want to sell, and then interested students will contact you if they want to buy your books. Conversely, you can search the books that other students have posted to find ones that you want to buy.

Rent It: To rent a textbook, order the books you need online, and at the end of your semester, mail them back in a prepaid package. According to an article by U.S. News and World Report, "Chegg, Bookrenter, and other book rental sites also allow students to rent for shorter periods for bigger discounts."

eBooks: Electronic books can cost significantly less and in many cases, you can highlight and make notes in the margins as you read them online. Some of the major textbook publishers including have joined forces and now offer thousands of textbooks in eBook format through a Web site called

Shop Around: Although it takes time and effort to shop around and compare prices for textbooks, servicemember students who do this typically save 20%. To find the best deals, check textbook-specific price comparison search engines, such as, and

If you do purchase your textbook brand new, keep it in like-new condition and sell it at the end of the semester.  You won't get the same price you paid for it originally, but you will get some money in return that you can use to purchase next semester’s books.

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