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Buying Books Doesn’t Have to Break Your Wallet

Now that classes have started up again, many of you are probably out trying to figure out how to get the best deals on your textbooks, because buying your books from the bookstore is your dead last resort. Luckily, there are some great tips and tricks designed to help you get the most for what you pay for, especially if you’re out shopping at the last minute!

The best way to find great deals on your textbooks is to find the ISBN number for your book, and plug it into sites like Amazon,, Chegg, and even the Barnes and Noble website. Just because Penn State is a bncollege partner doesn’t mean that the books are going to be an insane price on the B&N website, like they are in the bookstore.

Once you find the ISBN numbers of your books, and you plug them into the sites, you are presented with several options.

If you have an Amazon account, and you’ve linked it to your email address, you are eligible for Amazon Student. The nice thing about this is that with Amazon Student, you get six months of Amazon Prime, which means you can get your books in a little under two days with free expedited shipping. That can be very beneficial if you need your book right away. If you’ve already taken advantage of Amazon Student with free Prime, why not find a friend who hasn’t, and ask them nicely if you can borrow their account to order your books?

Sometimes you have to search the marketplaces on all of the sites for the best deal. Just make sure you keep an eye out for the condition! If it’s super cheap, but damaged, it’s worth it to pay a little extra to have a book in good condition, provided you don’t mind notes that have been scribbled in the sides, or that portions of the text have been underlined and/or highlighted. Sometimes those little things can help you in your classes. Otherwise, don’t waste your money on a brand new book, unless it’s so new that nobody has used copies available.

Also, be sure to check out the type of book you’ll be purchasing. If you buy a book from Amazon,, or Barnes and Noble, it could be super cheap because it is a “loose leaf” book format. This means that you’ll be getting the pages of the book, which you will be responsible for putting into a binder (or three) to cart to class.

You can also rent books from all of the places listed above. Chegg’s rental prices are much better than renting straight from the bookstore, but you can also find some deals through Amazon,, and Barnes and Noble. Renting books is a better option for courses that you don’t need in your career path, so you don’t have Algebra 1 books just lying around from your freshman year at home. Why buy books that you’re never going to open again?

If you have a Kindle, nook, iPad, or some other tablet device, check into getting an e-textbook instead. You’ll not only be saving your back from carrying around a heavy load of books, but you’ll be able to instantly access whatever section of the book you need within a matter of seconds. You can also rent e-textbooks, and some sites, like Chegg, sometimes have e-versions of the texts that you can access immediately before your actual book arrives.

If you don’t want to spend your time searching those websites, why not use social media to help you find some books that are relatively cheap? Asking around on Twitter, Facebook, etc. can sometimes get you better deals, and you won’t have to pay for shipping. Sometimes even just asking your friends if they still have their books from a course you’re currently taking can help you out in the long run as well.

Of course, there’s always the people out there who don’t want to spend any money whatsoever on books. That’s okay. Sometimes professors put all of the class materials on reserve in the library for people who don’t buy the books. It’s not as convenient as having the book for reference in front of you, but maybe people studying in the library around you will help your own studying skills. The other downside to professors putting the books on reserve is that there are time limits for looking at the materials, as well as not knowing how many other people are in your exact position…broke and bookless.

If you don’t mind sharing books, that could be another option for you. If you have a friend in your class who has the book you need, but you really don’t want to buy it, why not ask if they’ll be willing to share it with you? Some professors frown upon this practice, but as long as you don’t share the book in class as you’re taking an open-book quiz or test, you should be okay. This also means that you have a study group ready to go, in case you do get somewhat confused in the course.

Finally, if you received Barnes and Noble giftcards over the holidays, or you had a stash of them that you forgot, you can also use them at the bookstore to purchase your books. This can be particularly helpful, especially since it’s not technically your money that you’re seeing fly away on high textbook prices. I know it’s tempting to spend the giftcard money on books with substance, but sometimes you have to make that sacrifice for education.

Do you have any tips or tricks to finding cheaper textbooks? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Meghin Moore

Meghin is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in English. She transferred from the Harrisburg campus as a junior to finish out her schooling at University Park. She has a passion for all things music, fashion, art, and food. She's a Pennsylvania native (born outside of Pittsburgh, and lived in Lebanon for 11 years), but resides in Virginia when she's not in school, and has moved a total of ten times in her life, mostly thanks to the military.

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