Textbooks are expensive. In fact, some of them might even be called a ripoff. I decided I wasn’t going to pay the ripoff prices offered by my university bookstore, so I went on a hunt for ways to get textbooks for free or near free. I don’t believe anyone should have to pay those ripoff prices, so I’m sharing my methods with all students out there. Here are some secrets to get free or cheap textbooks, listed from least expensive to most expensive methods.
Check if you can get the text free online
This generally doesn’t work for big, expensive textbooks, but for novels and shorter works, it often does. For many literature classes, such as my twentieth century literature class this semester, a lot of the readings can be accessed for free online. For instance, I didn’t buy the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx or Hard Times by Charles Dickens-both are easily accessible online for free.
Check your local library
Ask students who took the class previously, and if it’s a book that is only briefly used in the class, you can probably get away with just checking out a copy from your local library. Plan ahead, because you don’t want to be caught off guard with no book.
This is free if you can arrange it with another student on campus. If you will be taking a class the other student is taking next semester and vice versa, check if the other student will want to trade textbooks. Chances are, they will. Win, win, for both!
Another invaluable resource is book swap sites such as Bookmooch or Paperbackswap. These allow you to swap books with other members for the price of postage alone. The trick is to post cheap, light paperbacks that you no longer want. You can ship these by media mail almost definitely for less than a dollar. Every time another member requests one of your books and you ship it, you earn a credit that you can use toward requesting any other book listed on the site. This is kind of a fishing expedition, but if you can find a book listed that you need for a class, you can get it for cents through the exchange system. This works best for smaller books (such as for literature classes), as it is unlikely that members will list very valuable, large textbooks for exchange. However, it may happen. Try it out!
Buy an old edition
You might want to check with students who previously took the class or ask the professor directly before you try this. But old editions of textbooks are often very, very similar to the new ones, only much, much cheaper. If you can slide with an old edition, you’ll save a bunch of money.
Sell and buy directly from other students
Students really get the short end of the stick selling and buying from the university bookstore. Using facebook or craigslist, you can arrange to sell or buy directly to other students, cutting out the middle man and resulting in more money in your pocket.
So there it is, keep your money and get free or cheap textbooks!