How to Find Cheap Community College Textbooks (And Save Hundreds of $$$)

by Chad Agrawal

Cheap community college textbooks are hard to find. Aside from tuition, textbooks can be the biggest expense associated with attending community college (unless you count the cost of in a dorm or off campus apartment). In any case, paying full price could set you back several hundred dollars per semester (or even per class) when all is said and done, especially if you're taking quite a few credits or you happen to get one of those professors that is a prolific writer and requires students to purchase every book he/she has ever written for use in class. Of course, most students only make the rookie mistake of overpaying for textbooks once. You live, you learn, and you discover that you can often access your syllabi before classes are in session so that you can get to the campus bookstore before all of the used copies of your textbooks have been snapped up. And when that's not an option (because, say, you are required to purchase the new edition of a text) you'll find that there are other options. Here are a few to consider that could save you a ton on your textbooks.

One way that many students choose to go is purchasing books online, and it's not that difficult to find them at discounted prices (although the level of discount will certainly vary by the outlet as well as the texts you're seeking). Amazon is a good place to start, especially if you have the ISBN handy, since you can find deals on both new and used copies of many books. You might even download the Kindle version at a lower rate than you'd pay for the text in the campus bookstore, and that's one less heavy tome to break your back all semester. Of course, there are also many websites geared specifically towards providing students with access to discounted textbooks (both real and virtual), and many of them come with additional options.

For example, sites like,, and (just to name a few) offer students the ability to not only buy and sell their textbooks, but also to rent texts for as much as 90% off the cover price. Considering that you're likely to get only 50% return by selling texts back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, this could save you a ton of money. In truth, even if you decided you want to keep a book that you rented, you can probably find a used copy on the cheap at the end of the semester (when everyone is unloading them and new editions are due out any day). So despite the fact that you also paid for a rental, you'll still come out ahead.

Another option that more and more students are turning towards is sharing textbooks. While there are websites that offer this service, you might want to steer clear of them since you probably want to avoid any whiff of piracy (and the malicious software that is known to permeate such downloads). No, what we're talking about is two or more students in a class pooling their funds to purchase one textbook and share it. While this could present a problem during open-book tests, you can often combat the issue by simply talking to your professor ahead of time and getting permission to use photocopies of the sections in question. As for reading and notes, simply look over the syllabus and make a schedule. As with a study group, each student can take responsibility for jotting down notes on certain chapters and distributing them to the whole group. And you can always use copies provided in the library as a last resort (although often they are not available for checkout). It's not the easiest way to use textbooks, but it can certainly help you and your classmates to save some money on your way to a legal, business, or health administration degree.

This post was written by Chad Agrawal

Chad Agrawal is the founder of CCTS, helping students transfer from community college to Ivy League, tier 1 or anywhere else by following this community college guide.

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