College comes with a lot of costs, from ever increasing tuition to trying to get food that isn't ramen to eat. Textbook prices range from reasonable to absurd when you step into the school bookstore, making you wonder if there's a better way than paying a few hundred dollars for all of your books in a semester. Luckily, the used book market has never been better, and there are plenty of reasons why you should pick up a used textbook over new or rented ones.
New Editions Aren't All That Different
It seems like some textbooks have a new edition every year, especially if the professor is the one writing the book. Unless you're taking an absolutely cutting-edge class that makes its current technology obsolete within a semester or two, chances are the textbook publisher is going after a cash grab. If you don't need to stay on top of the latest and greatest technology, look at the books from a few editions ago. These copies are substantially cheaper than the new textbooks, and pretty much all of the information is unchanged from edition to edition. You may have a bit of difficulty in matching up page numbers for reading, but that's the only real trip up you'll encounter when you buy older editions. The only type of textbook you can't use this method for are the ones that come with an online access code for essential classroom features.
International Used Textbook Access
Another option to drive your costs even further down for used textbooks is by looking into the international editions. These are editions the publisher makes available throughout the world, and they are often less expensive than the textbooks circulating in the United States. Since international textbooks cover a wider market with varying cost of living and economies, the prices tend to be lower than the used textbooks you have immediate access to. It may take some time to search out the proper international edition textbook for your class, but it's well worth taking the time to sort through all of the listings to find your prize.
Where to Find Used Textbooks
Stop before you buy used textbooks through the college bookstore. Even though that's the most convenient option, it's not going to be anywhere near your cheapest option, especially when they don't carry many previous editions of books. Amazon's online marketplace
is an excellent source for used textbooks, especially as you have many online sellers competing against each other on price, with a wide selection that ensures you find older versions of your necessary textbooks. However, Amazon isn't the be-all, end-all of used textbook sales. eBay
is another good source for used textbooks, especially international editions. Specialty retailers, such as Abe Books
, center their businesses around used textbook sales, making it easy for you to find the books you need before the next semester rolls around.
Textbook prices border on the insane, especially if your professor likes to put out a new version of the same textbook every year. Instead of dealing with high book prices on top of your already high tuition, save your student loan money and look for alternative options for your used textbooks. It saves you a lot of time, frustration and money down the road when you have a good source for your books. In most cases, the professor won't care or may even encourage you to seek out older versions of the text.