Used University Textbooks - C. Phaisalakani

17 Ways To Save On Textbooks

Hey, post-secondary students, Belinda Bruce has found 17 ways to save on schoolbooks this fall.

Used University Textbooks - C. PhaisalakaniCHEAPER IS BETTER | Buying textbooks at the campus bookstore is so old school. Post- secondary education is costly enough without forking over a premium for course materials. With the average full-time student spending between $900 and $1,200 a year on textbooks, it’s easy to understand why alternatives to the campus bookstore are cropping up everywhere.

Although many campus bookstores have long offered the option to sell textbooks back to them at the end of the course, there are numerous bargain-book alternatives out there that can save students hundreds of dollars per year. Here is a quick guide for the book-savvy student.

First Stop: The Campus Library

The student library card is the most cost-effective option. As soon as the course syllabus is handed out, check the campus library, where you’ll find most of the required textbooks in the stacks. Some libraries allow students to check out books for an entire semester; others offer short-term checkouts. However, limited supply means only a small percentage of students will be able to take advantage of this option, so act quickly. Notable disadvantages include: books cannot be marked up with highlighters and margin notes and may not be available for the critical study period. And be aware that on long-term checkouts, books must be renewed periodically.

Discount New And Used Books

Plenty of sites offer new or used editions for less. Online booksellers such as and have great selections, and even with the cost of shipping from the United States, students who do their book-buying homework are certain to save. Umbrella sites like, and do the legwork for you, searching multiple sites to find the lowest possible price. For example, DealOz compares 200 bookstore prices and offers free discount coupons too.

Many trusted sites such as offer used books with a buyback option, meaning you can buy a used book and sell it back to them. As revealed in an article in The Feldman File, this option can result in significant savings, possibly the best deal of all. An added perk to the Bigwords site is that they also list the buyback price, making the complete cost of the text, from sale to resale, easy to see.

Clearly Canadian

If you want to narrow the playing field and eradicate cross-border shipping fees, try a Canadian textbook reseller/exchange company. With over 29,000 used textbook listings, offers North American students the opportunity to buy and sell used textbooks with a simple search. has a smaller selection but is worth a visit.

It’s a good idea to get a head start on textbook research as longer shipping times for hardcopy texts may prevent you from getting your books by the time classes begin.

Digital Textbooks And E-resources

Prepare to rethink the classic textbook. Digital texts and e-resources are available from multiple sources at a fraction of the bookstore price. Sites like and offer convenient access to online and downloadable texts that can be read on any electronic device. Claiming to carry over 90 percent of all core textbooks used in higher education today as e-textbooks, includes the ability to highlight passages and make notes in the margins, just like the print version. Note that providers of downloadable etextbooks require that you install software to read their books. And any students keen on reselling their old textbooks should remember that e-textbooks can’t be resold, which should be factored into the overall cost.

Certain e-books can be accessed for free from sites like and Project Gutenberg. The key to these sites is that they provide access only to books with expired copyright; while you won’t find the latest edition of a physics textbook, you will find many books published more than 50 years ago. Google Books is another site worth checking out, but many of the books scanned into their website don’t allow full access, meaning that some pages may not be visible. Nonetheless, if you find even one book you need on these sites then you’re already ahead of the game.


Lease a book? You bet. Companies offer book rentals for a period of weeks or months, usually for half the purchase price or less. Imagine renting a book that retails for $120 for $25. You can highlight and markup your copy within reason, and some companies offer the option to buy the book at the end of the rental period. Keep in mind that there are penalties for books returned late or in poor condition.

Although book rentals are only just beginning to break into the Canadian market, is a good bet and can translate into savings of up to 75 percent. Follett of Canada recently launched Rent-a-Text at select campus bookstores in Ontario and Quebec and plans to be operating in five provinces in 2011. also offers textbook rentals to Canada, but the cost of shipping ($22.99 per shipment + $5.99 per item) makes this site a less attractive option.

The alternative textbook market is thriving and growing. With a little groundwork, students can fill their knapsack without a hefty book budget. —Belinda Bruce

Additional research: Jillian Von Sprecken; photo: C. Phaisalakani

4 replies
  1. MOM
    MOM says:

    Sounds like a good idea, Bee. I already returned a used one from last semester and was suprised that I got half of the original price. I also had the study guide from the library for free.

    For this semester, which starts next week, I am going to try the library first before I buy. I am taking a labour course, hope it works out better than the last one.

  2. BookMob
    BookMob says:

    BookMob offers the largest selection of cheap, used textbooks for Canadian students. We’re the first online service in the country to offer the option to purchase (new/used) or rent your books.

    Take a look ( and compare our prices!


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