The hunt for cheap textbooks

Using price comparison websites could save you hundreds


Photo by: Jordan Lodge | Production Manager

Finding cheap textbooks is one of the easiest ways to save money on school expenses and avoiding the bookstore is the first step.

The Internet has made finding cheap textbook offers much easier but finding the best websites for maximum savings can be tricky. Price checking books across multiple websites is one of the best ways to ensure that you are getting the best deal. This is made easier by price comparison websites.

Having a good price comparison website eliminates the guess-and-check work from searching for the lowest price and comparing multiple companies’ prices against each other to give you the best. One of the best sites for this is In addition to searching thousands of websites to find the lowest price, they also search for and apply any valid coupons from 30,000 different stores, according to the website.

After a price comparison site has done the legwork to find you the best deals, it is almost always more cost efficient to rent a used copy rather than purchase the book.

In many cases, you can rent a used copy of a book multiple times for less than what you would pay to purchase a new copy.

For example, the cost of a new copy of “Inside Reporting” by Harrower, a mandatory book for Journalism 121, is $116.65.

However, renting a used copy from the bookstore costs $54.84. In comparison, one search on found a rental of the same book for $22.33, a savings of $94.32 from the new copy at the bookstore.

Some professors require you to purchase books that contain online access codes. These books cannot be used copies, but there are still ways to save money.

Using price comparison websites remains the best way to find the lowest price for new books, but it is also wise to check online or with your professor to see if the access code can be bought separately from the book. If you must purchase the book, some publishers offer online books or PDF versions that you can bundle with the purchase of the access code on their websites.

Ferris medical laboratory science senior Rachel Schmid said: “If I purchased the textbooks for my classes at the lowest price from the bookstore, I would spend $278. Using to price compare, I will spend $64 for the same five textbooks.”

If you procrastinated too long to wait for shipping on a book order from the internet, it might not be too late to save. The bookstore offers a price match for most major websites, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, for last minute shoppers, the bookstore will not match online marketplace pricing. Online marketplaces are websites that use multiple parties to provide books; this includes Amazon Marketplace and Barnes & Noble Marketplace, who both allow independent sellers to list their products on the site. 

The bookstore also will not match prices on online textbooks or access codes.