Used and Discounted Textbooks – GradPlan


Used and Discounted Textbooks

Consider these resources before paying full-price for textbooks

If you can read it, you can learn from it

When it comes to textbooks for your college classes there are two important things to understand:

  1. You will need to get your own copy of each of the books your professors require, but the condition of that copy (new, used, etc.) doesn’t matter.
  2. Outside of your major, there isn’t much need to keep the textbooks you get after the semester ends.

Given those realities, it doesn’t make sense to focus on buying new (more expensive) books for your classes. Especially if professors are using older editions.

Did you know? There are 4 different ways to score textbooks at less than full price: Try getting the books for free; or, you can rent your textbooks, buy used textbooks, or find discounted pricing on new books. For the purposes of this resource page we will focus on these last two options.

Used Textbooks

If you’re shopping for used textbooks, there’s a few things to know:

Get the right edition 

  • Always check that the used book is the correct edition and publisher as to what your professor wants. Check your syllabus! And if you’re not sure, email your professor.
  • You might find an older edition that is cheaper, but ask your professor if you can use the older edition in class before you buy it.

Find an acceptable condition

  • Check the condition of the book. You don’t want a book where pages are missing or there is a ton of writing (or highlighting) on the pages. In terms of how used books are listed online, conditions of “acceptable” and above are usually in workable quality.  

Try these reliable sources for used books

  • – Look up by book title or ISBN (barcode number). Options to buy used or rent.
  • Powell’s – Popular online source for used and new books. Easy search features.
  • Amazon – Look up by ISBN or book title. Click “used” sellers when searching, and only shop sellers who have Amazon ratings above 90%.
  • Direct Textbook – Enter an ISBN or book title to see a comparative list of online sellers and prices available. The list will consist of new, used, and rental book options.
  • Local used bookstores – In addition to the official university bookstore, there might be a local used bookstore targeting university students.  Ask around.
  • University Bookstore – Prices are usually highest here, but they do have some used books for sale.  They usually buy back from students at lower prices and re-sell at a higher price.

Discounted Textbooks

There are lots of discounts for students when it comes to textbooks. Here are some things to look for:

Student discounts

  • Many stores/sites have additional discounts for students who verify enrollment or show a student ID.  Ask and check first.

Free shipping

  • Books can be heavy so it is best to buy when shipping is included in the costs
  • Many sites have special shipping rates for university students.  Check first.
  • Amazon has a college student program that offers free 2-day shipping for six months:

Memberships for long-term discounts

  • Some subscriptions offer savings over time or membership rewards at some bookstores and online sites.  For example, if you subscribe to Amazon prime for $119/year, you could save on purchase for the rest of the school year.  Additionally, Amazon Student is free to join for the first six months.

Older editions

  • Older editions of textbooks and other books are often less than half the price of the newer editions.  When bought used, they are even cheaper.
  • As mentioned above, make sure that you ask your professor if an older edition of the textbook for their class is okay since you are trying to save some money.  Your professor might have additional money-saving ideas for you, too!

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Free Stuff and Discounts

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist