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College textbooks are Expensive. Screw that.

Try to avoid getting them from campus.  Even if they have an appealing buyback and/or reward program.

Here are my tips for cheap textbooks/required readings for class:

  1. Bulletin Boards on Campus/Past Students of the Class.  It’s not always a guarantee they’ll have the edition you need, but you can always ask the prof/instructor if you can use the last edition.  Also, it saves you time and shipping than getting them online, especially if peeps are local.
  2. Rent them.  We live in the future.  Renting is an option.  There are a bunch of great rental sites: Chegg will plant a tree for every book you get, Skyo and BookRenter often works with local bookstores for drops/pickups.  BigWords is also a great one.  Google around a bit!
  3.  Seriously, they are the one purveyor I recommend most to everyone I know.  Not only can you get rare and out-of-print books, but all the sellers are independent.
  4.  Another great resource that gives you all kinds of great options, but mostly deals with the Big Wigs (Amazon,, B&N, etc). 
  5.  These people are amazing.  Not only do they do novels, they also do textbooks.  Even better, they donate one book for every one you purchase. 
  6. SwapTree.  Great little website where all you need to do is pay shipping. 
  7. BookMooch. Similar concept, but working with “points.” 

And now for the free resources!

  1. Your Local Library.  Seriously, why would you not check this first?  Sometimes even the campus has multiple copies for loaning or same-day reads, but check your local library first.  And if they don’t have the book you’re looking for, go talk to a Librarian.  They can get it for you, one way or another.  That’s what they’re there for: to be a resource for you.
  2. Project Gutenberg.  Free online ebooks.  Yeah, they might be dated, but you know what?  Shut up.  Free is free.
  3.  If you’re of the audiobook persuasion.  Great if you want to get your reading in and, say, do a lot of bouncy cardio at the same time. 
  4. The Online Books Page.  Run by some Penn state peeps.  
  5. Open Culture. Not a large a selection, but high quality texts. If you just want to skim a book to brush up on a course you took in ninth grade, download one of these. I have yet to be disappointed. 
  6. Book Boon. Provides free college-level textbooks in a PDF format. Probably the widest range of subjects on the web. The site is also pretty. 
  7. Flat World Knowledge. The worlds largest publisher of free and open college textbooks. Humanitie texts are particularly difficult to come by, this site has a great selection in all disciplines. 
  8. Textbook Revolution. Some of the books are PDF files, others are viewable online as e-books, or some are simply web sites containing course or multimedia content. 
  9. Library PirateWhen this site opened a few months ago, I went a little overboard. After dropping two hundred large on a paperback spanish textbook, I downloaded the ebook version. It will be interesting to see how this site grows — they already have a great selection. 

I’m sure there’s more out there, but that’s just a couple resources I go through every quarter.