Saving Your Wallet, One Textbook at a Time

These five wonderful sites are about to save you from bleeding your savings account dry just for an education.


Scott Bright, Contributing Writer

Welcome back to a new semester and all that it brings — new classes, new friends, and new experiences.  Ah, you can almost taste the excitement in the air, filled with yearning for learning.  We all run through the same motions — head to our class, grab a syllabus and introduce yourself to the class.  You know: name, major, why you’re in the class (because I need the credits, obviously).  You peruse the syllabus and find what textbook you’ll need (or if you’re an industrious student, you’ve already checked online), and the age-old anxiety sets in: you have to pay for these books and textbooks are so expensive.

And this is backed up with hard data: the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that on average students spend about $1200 a year on textbooks and supplies alone.  Holy s**t.

Frankly, I’m sick of paying so much for textbooks and I imagine you are too.  So I’ve decided to do some personal research to find some of the better sites that offer the best deals and values on textbooks.  Hopefully my suggestions will ease a bit of the financial woe your wallet is currently feeling.  Disclaimer: I am recommending these sites based off of personal experience and am not being paid to endorse or promote any of these sites.


1. Alibris

The first site I’m highlighting is Alibris.  This site does a bit more than just sell textbooks, novels, music and movies at discount prices.  When looking for your textbook(s), Alibris makes life as simple as possible.  Besides boasting discounts on textbooks of up to 80%, you can actually enter in each ISBN per textbook in the search bar (separated by commas), hit search, and the Alibris engine will actually attempt to create a personalized “price bundle,” described on site as “an optimized list of all textbooks you searched for — each at best available price — with copies in good condition or better.”  This is a fantastic time (and money) saver, as most of the books are sold through the site itself, making shopping a breeze.

What’s even better is that Alibris offers textbook buyback, so you can get a little bit of your money back at the end of the semester (unless you’re renting).  On top of all this, Alibris has a Back-To-School Savings section under their textbook tab.  Clicking this brings you to a page with savings and coupons that will help any student save on textbooks (and more!).  


2. AbeBooks

A personal favorite of mine to shop for textbooks at is AbeBooks.  Boasting savings of upwards of 80% (and higher in some cases) along with free shipping on a majority of textbook orders, used or new, AbeBooks is heavy into the business of saving students money.  They offer a buyback program available at any point in the year, enacting payment via PayPal or a mailed check.  Bonus: any books sold to AbeBooks get free shipping as well.  While they do not offer too much price comparison on site, they do tend to have the lowest rates on most textbooks, used or new.  While not offering as many coupons as some of the others on this list, AbeBooks offers strong prices and is generous with their free shipping.


3. Chegg

Ah, everybody has heard of Chegg.  It’s a common site for textbook purchases and rentals and for good reason.  My personal experience with the site has been largely positive.  For one semester, I had about $300 worth of books that I ultimately paid $40-ish for, having chosen to rent.  They offered free shipping for both receiving and sending my rented books and even provided me with the box to send the books back in (read: keep the box your books come in).  Chegg offers plenty of deals and discounts for students for a variety of things besides textbooks, such as tutoring, internships, and test prep.  Chegg is definitely a solid ally for any money-strapped student.


4. Valore Books

Valore Books is yet another site that dedicates itself to providing savings for students.  Pretty much their entire shtick is to find the best deals in textbooks.  What stands out about Valore is that they offer a fantastic price match guarantee, which not too many sites can proclaim.  This is backed up by a no-questions-asked 30-day money back guarantee on all their transactions (which any textbook site worth its weight in Bitcoin should offer).  I personally saved about 87% on my Sexuality course textbook by renting through Valore, which is absolutely huge for any college student.



Yes, BIGWORDS.  Within this site, an adorable yet helpful robot guides you through the wallet-saving haven that is this price comparison engine.  This quirky boon is by and large one of my personal favorite comparison shopping engines for textbooks.  Aside from the amusing backdrop and allusions to robotic sentience, BIGWORDS is the absolute standard for comparing textbook prices, saving students on average 50% versus other leading sites.  The engine essentially scans the web for textbook prices and brings you the lowest priced books from a whole host of reliable book sellers, including every site mentioned above.  There’s a reason I included this site last.  But of course that’s not all BIGWORDS does for students, as the site also scans the internet for coupons and sales on textbooks (and so many other things), meaning you get the best possible price with the most possible savings every time.  They even have their own app!

And honestly, there’s a good chance your textbook exists out there in a PDF format for free, and there’s also the ebook option, which usually is about as cheap as buying used or renting.  However you go about getting your course materials, make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Well there you have it.  And since it’s early in the semester, it’s definitely not too late to check if a book you just purchased is available cheaper somewhere else, as our school store and most retailers have money-back return policies, usually within 21-30 days of initial purchase.  So get out there, save some cash, and get your learn on.