Your Wallet Loves This Strategy For Cheap College Textbooks

Everyone who goes to college knows the huge hole in your wallet that college textbooks make. I have executed a strategy that has saved me hundreds of dollars while buying my college textbooks and I wanted to share it with you today. This strategy will not only save you money by getting you cheap new books, but will guarantee that you can make more money when is time to resell them.


Find The Professor Teaching The Class You Are Taking

Most colleges let you develop a “Wish List” of the classes you desire to take the upcoming semester. If your college doesn’t let you develop a wish list, search for the classes and get the professor’s information, such as e-mail or phone number.


Contact Your Future Professors

Send your future professors an e-mail saying how excited you are to take their class and that you are looking forward to have an amazing semester learning from them.

This is where the magic comes in…

Tell them how interested you are in knowing what book he or she will require for the next semester. You can say how excited you are to get your materials done quickly or that simply you want to get it over with already. You can also let them know that you may have a couple of friends who already took the class and that you have the option of borrowing the book from them before they sell them (If they do own the book, just means GREAT news for you).


Make a List

After the professors respond to you, make sure you thank them for their time and end by saying you look forward to learning from them next semester. This will not only help you get the information you need for saving money on textbooks, but it will also earn you major points with them while taking their class next semester.


Do Your Research

It’s simple economics 101, the law of supply and demand.  Demand is how much a product is desired by buyers and Supply is how much the market can offer to fulfill those needs.

Supply and demand are correlated to each other, if supply decreases but demand increases or stays the same makes the price of the product to go up. Equally if supply increases, but demand decreases creates the prices to stay low or at a competitive level.

What we are doing is simply taking advantage of supply and demand. We are already ahead of thousand of students who are going to be looking for the same book in a couple of months. As such, we are looking to buy when the demand is low, but the supply remains high.

Now that you know how this is going to work, let us put this strategy into action.


The Time to Buy Your Cheap College Textbooks

Start by looking for the textbooks in your list on websites such as Amazon,, eBay, or any other online textbook books.

Research what are the best prices and get your books at that moment. Every minute counts in this game. I personally have experienced books going up $10 in value within 20 minutes, while I was making up my mind.

Amazon Textbook Choices

In this picture, I have researched an economics textbook required for one my classes in the economics department required at my college – I used The school offers this same textbook (used) for a price of $110. Luckily I have done the research 7 weeks before school started and I get the option of getting it for the lowest price out there.

As you can see the lowest price of the textbook is $53.17 and it goes all the way to $115 on the next pages. We can see that the prices increase after the first book, telling us that if somebody buys the first couple of textbooks we are obligated to pay a higher price.

This is how supply and demand works. After all the cheaper textbooks are bought students are left with the more expensive option when they decide to buy their textbooks.

We can see how the prices increase each day that goes by, especially when the first day of school is approaching.


In this picture I show the confirmation e-mail of my order at done less than a week ago compared to the prices for the same textbooks done at Last time I checked carried the same textbooks at the same price as Amazon.

The only reason why I decided to buy at Amazon is because you can take advantage of their FREE Super Saver Shipping option (This option gives you free shipping when buying two or more items at the same time). I encourage you to take advantage of this deal every time it is available; it really does make a difference.


When to Sell to Get The Highest Price

After the semester is done, most students out there opt to sell their books immediately to their local bookstore – they call it textbook buybacks, and I call it a SCAM. Have you ever wondered how bookstores that offer buy backs make their money?

Bookstores buy the books from students who are enthusiastic to get some money to spend during summer. These companies take advantage of this behavior and offer you the lowest price possible to acquire your used textbooks.

What we can learn from these companies is that timing is our best friend. Just like I mentioned before, we can take advantage of the supply and demand economic theory and sell our books when the supply is short and demand is high, forcing the prices to rise. Usually this behavior starts a couple of weeks before school starts.

To ensure the books you own are going to be used by the class next semester, communicate with your professor and let them know your strategy or simply tell them that you are looking to hold the book for one of your friends, who is taking his or her class next semester. This will ensure you that a new edition will not be used next semester and that the strategy we will use will provide the highest returns.

I have personally performed this strategy each semester of college. There have been some semesters were I break even and in some occasions I have made a substantial profit.  But as Ben Franklin would say…

“A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned” – Benjamin Franklin

Frank Alvarez is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Wall Street College (, a blog with the sole purpose of educating people on how to put their money to work, teach them how to invest in stocks, and how to always strive for financial freedom.  You can follow Frank on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. says

    I stopped buying textbooks after I realised at the end of my first semester I still had some textbooks shrinkwrapped that I had never opened. Most campus libraries have non-borrowable copies always in stock for you to access if you need to get any specific information from them, or sometimes I would buy a friend a beer in exchange for letting me borrow their book overnight.

    • says

      Yes, that will be another option, I did that for a semester or two until I realized how much I hated to be asking around all the time. Sometimes you really need the textbook, but by doing this method above I bought my textbooks for cheap and in most of the cases I got to make a profit by selling them.

  2. says

    Good tips for finding the best textbook price. One thing to check with a professor is what edition of the book they will be using. Many used books may be one or two editions behind. This can matter if assignments come out of the textbook, and there have been changes in the textbook problems between editions. These days, when searching for low prices or hard to find textbooks, I look first on and then on says, “we help you find the lowest book prices on new and used books by comparing prices at more than 3 dozen online bookstores.”

    • says

      Thank you for your comment Bryce. I like that you provided another excellect webpage to buy good college textbooks. Personally i didn’t know anything about and yes communicating with your professor about text editionsnis extremely important, you don’t want to buy a new book that is not going to be used next semester. This will only decrease it’s value when you try to resell it. Can you tell me how reliable is if you have personally used it? I believe it can be a great addition to my personal shopping list.

  3. says

    One trick that I used to use was to make friends with someone in class and share their book for the first couple of weeks. During this time frame, most professors are getting you acclimated to the course and the bookwork is normally minimum. After two to three weeks, the price of books both in person and online are often significantly cheaper than they are leading up to the beginning of class.

  4. says

    This strategy would have saved me a lot of money when I was in school. A couple of times when the current edition was way overpriced, I bought the older edition for almost nothing. There was very little difference between the older edition and the new edition.

  5. says

    So good info here, but this blogger/columnist seems to be overlooking the value students can receive by going to their local college store.

    Almost all college stores offer rental, which allows students to lock in their savings up-front, negating the need to worry about sell-back. In fact, it is the wholesale move by college stores’ across the country to offer print textbook rentals (from 300 stores in 2009 to nearly all of our 3,000 members currently) that has been the primary reason that the cost of course materials declined from four years ago. NOTE: The latest figure we have on college students’ required course materials is $662 – up slightly from the prior year, but still down from $702 4 years ago.

    Regarding used books: Again, the campus bookstore has the largest source and selection of such money-saving course materials. By going to their college store, students can make sure they’re getting the exact edition they need, and can check its condition – no missing pages, amount of highlighting, notes in the margin, etc. Buying from an unknown third-party might result in some unpleasant surprises here, since the buyers’ and sellers’ definition of “slightly used” will probably not be the same. AND, in all cases, college stores offer clear, fair return policies in case a student drops a course.

    E-textbooks: A possibility, and college stores sell them, but most are still just slightly glorified PDFs of the print version that are clunky to navigate and study with. In addition, these in most cases act as rentals. In addition, our student surveys find that 77% of college students prefer the print over the digital version of the textbook.

    To try to keep this as brief as possible, I’ve included links below to several items we’ve published in the past few weeks that give a more accurate picture of the course material issue, and the true VALUE that college stores bring to the textbook purchasing process.

    Total Estimated Rental Savings

    Money-Saving Textbook Tips

    Cost of Course Materials Inch Up Despite Store Efforts
    Texbook Tax Credit

    Finally, the federal HEO Act encouraged colleges to list the required course material information for students access at the time of registration, so in many cases students don’t have to work the faculty as hard as this author suggests.

    Sincerely, Charlie Schmidt, Dir. of PR
    National Assn. of College Stores

    • says

      Thank you Charles for your comment. I agree college bookstores offer all the materials you need and they are in perfect conditions, they may bring many add-ins that online retail doesn’t bring; However I found your comment to be a little biased as your profession may indicate.

      Many college students are looking for the best deals on books because college textbook store prices are ridiculously high for THEIR budget. Even $30-50 saved during college can make them feel better.

      In the example above I manage to buy my 4 textbooks for $193 used and in perfect conditions. While at my campus bookstore I had to pay $499 for the same textbooks (Two of those were rented, and the other two were used).

      The problem about rentals is that you can’t resell them, by renting you are just giving money away for the opportunity to use a whole book for a semester. Buying it with the strategy shown above, gives you the opportunity to make the most while reselling them, heck you can even make a profit for your textbooks!!

      Thank you once again for your reply.

  6. Xavier says

    I wish I could’ve done this back in college. I always hated the buyback policy at my university. These days there are so many alternatives to choose from when buying college textbooks, this is good info. for students to consider.

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