The Right Guidance for College and Career Success: Maximizing Your Educational Investment

5 Tips to Purchasing College Textbooks

Recently, our college student network asked the question, “When is the right time to purchase textbooks?”

The quick answer to that question is, “as early as possible! And be strategic to save yourself time and money!




Here  are 5 Tips to be strategic about purchasing college textbooks:

  1. 1. Get your class schedule. Once you have your class schedule, you can determine which textbooks are required for each course. You can do that by going to the website for each class and/or visiting the college bookstore (in person or online) to figure out what books you need. Make a list of each book including the title, author, edition, and ISBN number (every textbook has one of these and often, searching by ISBN number provides better results). Feel free to use this ForwarDirections Textbook Comparison Chart to compare textbook prices.
  2. 2. Check the price of the books on your college bookstore’s website. Is there an opportunity to order books online and have them delivered to you? Or do you have to go to the bookstore in person to purchase? (If you do have to go into your college bookstore, do so as early as possible, unless you like crowds. This also allows you to purchase used books at a reduced price.)
  3. 3. Compare book prices online. Use the ISBN number to compare textbook prices online. Textsurf allows you to compare prices between booksellers (however, it probably won’t let you include your college bookstore in that comparison). Additional websites that may be useful are:, Abebooks,, and These companies often provide free shipping wherever you are. There are also websites that rent textbooks such as Textbook Rentals or Chegg.  Do a cost analysis to determine if purchasing or renting textbooks will work best in your situation.
  4. 4. Purchase textbooks early with a credit card. By using a credit card, you have a record of all of your textbook costs, plus it is easier to return textbooks and get the credit back on a credit card. Also, purchasing on a credit card and then paying off the balance will help you build your credit.
  5. 5. Sell back your textbooks. Sell your textbooks back to your college bookstore or other book outlets (or set up your own book resale account on or eBay to sell your books directly to other students). Either way, there are few textbooks that need to be kept forever.


Once you see the syllabus for each course, you can decide which books are critical to keep or return to the place where you bought them. Some classes may only require reading a few chapters. Also, parts of some textbooks can be found on Google books.

textbookreadcycleThe key is to figure out a system for purchasing textbooks that works best for you, and then you can adjust as needed. In the long term, you can save money by putting a good process in place.

This article suggests other strategies for purchasing textbooks and shows a comparison chart for some of the standard college textbooks.