How To Buy Cheap College Textbooks?

Here are a few different ways of how to buy cheap college textbooks:

  1. Rent for the semester: Rentals are generally available for a little over 120 days (aka 6 months). This is the most cost-effective way to obtain textbooks for college. Just be sure to not add anything in the textbook and use a notebook for recording important notes on the topic. It is generally alright to scan or copy a few important textbook pages just for personal use as well. So you can be sure that you will have all the key book content handy even if you needed to return the rental book.
  2. As eBook/ Digital book: There are times when you might need the textbook for immediate use. At such times, accessing the eBook is probably the fastest way to get the book. There are a few book providers who specialize in providing digital copies of popular textbooks. Or if you’re like me, you like the convenience of eBooks as you can zoom in to larger fonts, do a full-length keyword search in the book, add digital notes and so on. Working digitally also makes it convenient to refer to multiple eBooks and digital sources simultaneously. For example, you can refer to more than one eBook, a whitepaper or research paper online and also access Wikipedia all in one single study session. For this specific reason, I find digital books to be highly convenient and efficient.
  3. Buy the New Book: Most online retailers such as Amazon ship the book orders fast and it would reach you in three to four days time. I would generally advise against buying textbooks directly at the college bookstore as these can turn out to be very expensive. Just use you discretion and buy at the college if the book is discounted. Other than this, there are many other online book retailers to choose from.
  4. Buy a Used Book: Used books are another great way to buy textbooks for an affordable price. Most students like to sell their used textbooks and so there is often a good supply of used textbooks. There have been times when I bought used textbooks for even less than $20, so it is worth it. Just be sure to choose a book that is like new, or generally in good condition.

Here are some great places and ways to buy these college textbooks:

There are so many other websites and stores that carry textbooks but just focusing on the above four is all that is required. There is no need to complicate the textbook search. Instead, its best to go with retailers who consistently offer the best deals and in the most convenient way possible.

Amazon is great for textbooks of all kinds! CampusBooks has by far the best discounted listings for textbooks. VitalSource provides eTextBooks for a greatly reduced price and is therefore worth checking out as well.

How to Buy Cheap College Textbooks on Amazon? is often the best place to buy or rent college textbooks. What is even better is the benefits Amazon provides for college students. There are textbooks in just about any topic you could wish for! There are even eTextbooks, books on rental, new textbooks for a discounted price and even used textbooks for the fraction of the price of a new textbook.

Amazon also has a great platform and makes it easy to rent textbooks, to return the textbooks and so on. If you ever run out of time and need a textbook at the earliest, you can never go wrong with Amazon! Just a few clicks here and your discounted textbook will be on its way to you. But if at times a particular book is not on Amazon at a discounted price for some reason, it is good to have a few other alternative sites to go with.

How to Buy Cheap College Textbooks on CampusBooks?

Over the last several weeks, every time I’ve searched for a textbook on CampusBooks, I see the largest listing of online retailers with the lowest priced book rental, eBook, used book and a brand new textbook. No other site so far compares to CampusBooks in terms of up-to-date listings of the lowest priced book retailers for that particular book.

I did see many other sites but none of them matched up to CampusBooks. A few of them such as is a bit out-of-date and does not show the Amazon rental in the lowest price, but CampusBooks does. I was also able to verify this directly on Amazon.

Note that CampusBooks simply aggregates the details from the online book retailers and does not currently sell textbooks directly on their site (as of this writing).


How to Buy Cheap College Textbooks on Knetbooks?

Knetbooks is a strong contender for the top spot as the lowest price textbook rentals. Upon searching for a College Algebra book by LIAL & HORNSBY 12th edition, the rental price has been reducing each time from about $28 to $25 to finally $23.69. The shipping was about $3 earlier but now shows up as Free shipping.

So I definitely see Knetbooks somewhere among the top lowest-priced textbook rentals provider.

How to Buy Cheap College Textbooks on VitalSource?

VitalSource specializes primarily in eTextbooks and their prices for the eBooks are comparable to that of Amazon. The added advantage with VitalSource is the extra textbook reading features such as book highlighting, flash cards, study groups, reading book offline, and even an audio bookshelf reading-aloud feature.

In my opinion, these additional features make VitalSource a premium low cost eTextBook retailer!

Amazon Prime Student

Amazon too provides amazing bonuses and packages specifically for students. The Amazon Prime Student is a prime membership for students that currently carries a 6-month free trial membership to the Prime Student. How to Buy Cheap College Textbooks with Amazon Prime Student?

Here are the benefits oh choosing Amazon Prime Student:

  1. Free trial membership for 6 months
  2. Free shipping on orders eligible for Prime
  3. Unlimited Music for a small token fee
  4. Free movies on Prime
  5. Free books on Prime
  6. Free video games
  7. Special product discounts
  8. Free product samples
  9. Free same day delivery and more
  10. Free 2-Hour Grocery delivery


The Amazon Prime Student is a deal that is too attractive to miss! With college students being constantly on the move with classes, activities and a low spending budget, the Prime membership can take care of all your after-school needs.

In case your chosen textbook is not at the best price on Amazon (which in itself is highly unlikely), just take a look at CampusBooks for a quick side-by-side comparison across retailers. If you prefer eTextbooks, do not miss the chance the benefit from VitalSource for their additional features and added bonuses.

If book rentals are your best preferred method, go with Knetbooks and compare their rental prices for your textbook.

By the way, Amazon is great not just for textbooks but even for affordable electronics, school supplies, groceries and so much more. Here’s my post on affordable Best Laptop Buy for 2020 featuring the most inexpensive laptops and chromebooks on Amazon.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this article and find it useful!

Let me know what you think below with your valuable comments.

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13 thoughts on “How To Buy Cheap College Textbooks?”

  1. I think that buying used textbooks and even ebooks online is probably the best solution for college students if they have a good amount of time ahead of when they are going back to college. Thanks for this list I will use it when I go back to college in the future.

  2. When it comes to getting study materials, I think it’s more affordable to go with the digital format. Not only is it affordable, it is also very convenient to use.  I study at an open university so I can tell from experience how effective it is.

    But I know there are students who still prefer to study with hard cover text books. For students like that, I’m sure there are libraries that let them borrow books. But if they can afford to buy, then amazon is a good choice.


  3. Thanks for this information as I have a client who is currently in college and finishing up his AA degree, and about to transfer to a larger university in the Fall to pursue his B.A. and possible graduate studies later. Given the high expense of textbooks, this will be very useful information for him.

    I never knew you could rent textbooks. I am not surprised that digital copies are available. You have given good sources for new and used books. Thanks for mentioning the Amazon Prime Student as I will share this info with my client as well as my nephew who is currently at university.  

    I appreciate this valuable information. Thanks again and all the best.

  4. Thank you for your interesting post Padma. Our daughter is about to start her College studies and is in this growing market to source good quality and affordable textbooks. I was unaware that students now had options to rent their textbooks which makes sense given the high cost of some textbooks and their limited use by a student beyond their immediate study needs.  It’s great to have the option to return rental textbooks rather than cluttering your bookshelves when they’ve been long forgotten. Thanks.

  5. Hello Padma. Nice to see you share these various ways by which we can buy cheap college textbooks. Owning or having access to a textbook as a student is one of the best ways to actually do better in courses because there is access to actually study the course anytime and anyway. But the cost of these textbooks can deprive students from doing well, that’s why I find this post very helpful and useful.

    The ones I tried when I was in school was to borrow, I purchased some new ones and I had books in electronic formats (texts, word and PDF). Was really helpful.

    Amazon Prime Students is an interesting option from Amazon and I think it would be worth giving a try considering the huge benefits and value that comes along.


    • That’s great! Let me know if you have any additional questions with signing up to Amazon Prime students :))

  6. Your guide is very helpful to have a cheap college textbook. There are so many other websites and stores that carry textbooks but just focusing on the all, Rent for the semester , eBook/ Digital book, New Book and used book, I found Knetbooks is the best for me. You are really doing an awesome work for college students.

  7. Thanks for sharing these tips on how to buy cheap college textbooks. My son is currently in his second year in college taking up Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (IT). The high tuition fee for this course is hurting my pocket so I’m looking for ways for him to rent books instead of buying. Can someone from the Philippines rent books via Amazon?

    • It seems there is no Amazon online store in the Philippines but you can still order the books on and have them shipped to Philippines. To reduce shipping cost, perhaps you could use an online shipping partner such as Johny Air Plus and have the book shipped to their USA address and they will ship it or you can pickup at their Manila address. Another option is to buy the eTextbooks which is possible without the additional international shipping.

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