Buying or renting a textbook this semester? Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck!

College textbooks

Bring it on, fall semester! (Photo credit: henry…)

If you’re taking classes this fall, you had better step up your game and start looking into buying or renting textbooks for the semester. You definitely don’t want to spend the first week of your semester standing in line at the one campus bookstore with the rest of the procrastinators. Yes, I’ve definitely been that student standing in the 45-minute line, but I quickly learned the ways of those who came before me. Here’s what to avoid to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

First things first

If you haven’t already done so, email your professors to see what textbooks are required and which are just “recommended.” Once you have your entire list of needed books, you can begin your search. Remember, buying several books at a time could save you money, especially on sites like where you’ll receive 10% off orders of more than $150. Another reason to shop early and for all your books at once? offers free shipping on orders more than $25.

What not to do

Here’s what you shouldn’t do: order your books the night after your class starts. You’ll pay extra for rush shipping, and you’ll have to play catch-up to read the first 5 chapters before next class. Doesn’t sound like fun? Then you may want to plan ahead. Dropped the ball and did waited too long anyways? (It happens.) CengageBrain offers free ebook access to your book while it ships so you can read it right away.

A few other things to avoid:

  • Buying the first book you find in your search: This may require a little bit of work on your end, but as Marc Perry of The Chronicle of Higher Education suggested in his January 27, 2013 post titled “Students get savvier about textbook buying,” there are plenty of options available online to find the right price for your books this semester. “Nowadays, how much you pay may depend on how much time you invest in poking around. Even traditional bookstores are adapting to that mentality.” Ebooks, rentals and used books are all options to avoid the ever-increasing cost of new books. Price check which book version — ebook, print, rental — is best for you.
  • Rejecting the idea of an ebook: If you have a tablet or light-weight laptop you take to class on a daily basis, you can purchase the e-book version of your textbook and save your back by not also carrying a heavy textbook around campus. If you really have to have that paper version, why not consider using your semester print credits to print the e-book? Sharon Vaknin of offered a tutorial onAugust 2, 2012 titled “How to print e-book pages.” Some e-books may have a limited print quantity, so check the license before hitting the print button.

The important thing is that you’re getting all of the information you need to pass your classes and get your education on!

What tips can you offer on what to avoid while looking for textbooks this semester? Please share them below!  

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