The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling College Textbooks

Textbooks are one of the most expensive costs for a college student, especially if you’re going into a major that is heavy on reading. If you’re a broke college student, finding cheap textbooks is a priority. It’s also not hard to do.

Before You Buy Your Textbooks

There are a few questions to ask yourself before you buy all the books on your syllabus.

Do I need this book?

The first step is to figure out whether you’ll use the books on your syllabus. Most professors will be honest and tell you how much you need the book. If you’ll only use the book a few times, see if you can borrow it from a classmate.

Which edition?

First step is to ask your professor, when they’re going over the syllabus is the best time, if the newest edition is necessary. Most professors, my mom included, don’t necessarily need or want you to have the newest, most expensive edition unless whatever changed is exactly what is needed for the class. Usually the new edition has a few grammatical fixes and a fancy new cover and that’s all.

eBook or real book?

Once you know you need a book, decide whether you want to buy a real book or an eBook. eBooks are more affordable and portable, but they are more difficult to highlight or otherwise annotate. Real books are more expensive, but many people find that they retain the information better when reading it from paper rather than a screen.

Renting or owning?

If you’ve settled on a real book, the next step is to decide if you want to rent or own the book. The upside to renting is it’s cheaper, but the downside is you can’t sell it at the end of the semester. If the book is going to be worthless at the end of the semester and you know this, go with renting. If you can sell it back to Amazon or another online marketplace with a textbook buy-back program, own it.

Finding the Best Prices for College Textbooks

Before your make a purchase, do some price comparisons. Many online retailers do that for you, but it’s in your best interest to visit some brick and mortar locations as well.

Bookstore prices

Go to the official campus bookstore and go to the unofficial bookstore. Check the prices on the books you need, make a nice comparison chart that will save your life.

Many college bookstores also have a book buyback program, where you can sell them your old textbooks for store credit on future textbooks or supplies.

There might also be a book swap or sell group on campus. Usually you can find signs posted, or it might be a Facebook group. This is another IRL way to get cheap books. Used books are great because important passages are typically already highlighted for you!

Online prices

Now, go home and check Craigslist, Ebay, and Add these prices to your chart. Search using the books ISBN number to get the correct edition.

Craigslist is a potential option for anyone living in a college town. Many students sell their used textbooks to other students through Facebook or Craigslist at a discounted rate.

The Amazon we know today sells practically everything, but it was originally a bookstore. You can still find great deals on textbooks, particularly eBook versions.

Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble has many textbooks, most of which you can sell back to them when you are done.

You can buy or rent books from Chegg for a very low price. They have a good selection of books to choose from, and if you can decide to keep a book you are renting, for a fee.

Valore Books
Valore makes it easy to find books with their ISBN search tool.

Campus Books
The best part about Campus Books is that you can use their search function to scour multiple sites for the same book. This way, you’ll always get the best price.


Now that you have your nice chart comparing prices/shipping charges, do a little math see which deal is best. If you have a school email address, you can often get Amazon Prime free for 6 months, and then at a reduced rate thereafter. This might help offset potential shipping costs, and make Amazon the best option.

Finding the best price

Throughout your search for a book, you will need to compare textbooks and find the best price. The easiest way to find cheap college books is to search websites for the ISBN and compare prices. There are tons of websites out there for you to compare prices easily and having the ISBN is the best way to do it.

Where to Sell Your College Textbooks

Most websites that sell textbooks will also buy them back, including Amazon and Valore Books. Here are a few more websites that will buy your books for real cash.

What are your tricks for finding the best deals on college textbooks?