Saving Money on Textbooks

Learn how to get the best deals on expensive textbooks


Textbooks and other required materials for class aren’t always easy on the wallet. Although there are many ways to achieve the best deal possible, here are a few money-saving tips that will score you some savings at the register.


The Online Route

In the 2017-2018 school year, about 77 percent of students bought their required materials at campus bookstores, followed by 41 percent of students buying from Amazon, according to a study conducted by the National Association of College Stores (NACS).

However, purchasing or renting online is just as accessible as an in-store transaction. Considering every piece of information about a textbook is easily accessible through sites like Amazon, Chegg, and Barnes & Noble, the best deal on a book isn’t as hard to find.


The Amazon Textbook Rental system, for example, essentially does all the work of getting a textbook. With a neat tracking of all new and used rental books as well as the necessary slips for return, it’s an efficient way to buy and save.


For a more general browse, the University Network website has a nifty feature called “Textbook Save Engine.” All a student needs for the search engine is an ISBN, author or title. This search engine auto-populates the cheapest route for either purchasing or renting a new or used book.  


Rent, Buy or Share

There is a vast difference in savings between buying a textbook at full price and renting it online or in stores. Renting saves much money for a textbook that will only be used for one semester. However, it does require a little more responsibility in order to ensure that the book doesn’t get water damage or extreme wear and tear.

Another way to save money is to share required course material between multiple people. Consider splitting with a friend or a newly befriended classmate.


The Waiting Game

Don’t rush into buying or renting an expensive textbook for class. Unless there is an assignment due or a test scheduled for the first day, professors understand that students are searching for textbooks with the best price tag.


Price Match

Price matching in the bookstore can save the hassle of online shipments and deliveries. However, some conditions have to be met for price matching to work. The book must be fulfilled and certified  by either Amazon or Barnes & Noble as the seller and shipper, not a third party. The ISBN of the textbook or material must also be the same, as it will be verified by the bookstore representative at checkout. Whether the book is new or used, the price-matched material online must be in the same condition. Rentals are guaranteed at a more limited capacity since dates have to line up with the Mason bookstore return schedule. When buying or renting, know that price matching is another avenue for saving money.


The Mason Community

Often times, peers from the same or related major already have required texts from past semesters. If not a friend, then maybe a friend of a friend. Regardless, students selling textbooks present some of the best deals out there. Since there is no big-name distributor, shipping or other costs involved, students are conscious of reasonable pricing.

The Facebook “Class of 20XX” pages, other miscellaneous Facebook groups and word-of-mouth are just some of the fast approaches to cheap buys.


Textbook Format

A physical copy of a textbook is often the best kind to have, as some professors do not allow phones or laptops during session. An alternative to physical books are e-textbooks, which can offer the same convenience for the same cost.


This time of the semester is tough, but the added requirement of textbooks shouldn’t be as damaging to student’s wallets.