How to Find the Best Prices on Books: With A Guide For College Students

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The best place to get books is at your local library because you do not pay anything.  Another great source for cheap books is your local second hand store.  However, in school you need to have your own book and it is hard to find specific books at a second hand store.

Photo by Mild Mannered Photographer

Four Tips for College Students to Help Decrease the Cost of Text Books

  1. Contact your professor and ask if you need the latest edition.  Buying an older edition can save 50-70%.  Some professors will insist that you have newest edition.  Other professors, however, still use the older edition and won’t ask you to have the latest edition.  A quick email to your professor could save a bunch of money.
  2. Buy from a former student. The beautiful thing about college classes is that someone else is always waiting to take the exact same class you just took.  Find someone who just had the class you are getting read to take and ask them if they are willing to sell, rent, or trade their book.
  3. Buy at a used book store. Depending on your local area there might be a store the sells only used books.  Take your book list there and see what prices they offer on your selected text books.
  4. Buy your books online. The internet has opened the option for you to get the absolute best prices.  The best prices are often bound by combining #3 and #4 and buying used books online.

To help, I decided to do a little test of some online booksellers to see who had the cheapest book prices.  Imagine you were taking a course on personal finance and were required to read the top five books on personal finance, where would be the cheapest place to buy all those books?  I have listed the book title and their MSRP’s below:

  1. The Millionaire Next Door – $15.00
  2. The Richest Man in Babylon: The Success Secrets of the Ancients – $6.99
  3. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness – 24.99
  4. Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence – $16.00
  5. A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing (Revised and Updated) – $18.95

TOTAL NEW COST if you paid full price (excluding taxes): $81.93

What Online Book Stores have the Cheapest Prices?

In the numbers below I have included all shipping and tax costs.  For the used books, I chose older editions and more used books to get my price.

7.   Barnes and Noble [new books] $63.19

23% OFF

6.   Buy [new books] : $58.29

29% OFF

5.  Hot Book Sale [new books] $56.88

31% OFF

4.  Overstock [new books] $52.84

36 % OFF

3.  Amazon [used books] $40.48

51% OFF

2.  Half [used books] : $34.64

58% OFF

1.  Abe Books [used books] : $27.52

66% OFF

As you can tell, the advantages of buying used are self evident.

Anyone have another favorite site for buying books?


  1. says

    I have had two of my five children in college. The oldest graduated a few years ago and the second child is halfway towards her bachelor’s degree. The idea of paying less for textbooks sounds nice, however, it might be better to just consider it part of the cost of education. However, You can get some of the books used through Amazon.
    I think it all just takes proper advanced planning. Make sure you have a few hundred dollars put aside for this, well before classes start. Also, some financial aid programs may include the cost of books. Check with the financial aid counselor at your school.
    .-= Mrs. White´s last blog ..A Restaurant Style Breakfast at Home =-.

    • Craig says

      @ Mrs. White. Thanks for your comment. It is helpful to remember that we need to plan ahead for book expenses. Before I did my best price test I typically bought through either Amazon or Half, but now I have added Abe Books to my list of placed to check. My personal philosophy – if you need to buy something, you may as well buy it for a cheap as possible. Thanks!

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