From Kindergarten through 8th grade, my children were always given their textbooks at school. It was a huge shock to me when my oldest son entered 9th grade, and along with our tuition, we had to BUY our textbooks. The school offered a website to buy books online, but there were really no deals. So, off I went to find a better way. Here are some things you can do to save money on textbooks for high school, college or any level of education.

  • Once you have the list of books and ISBN numbers, go to Amazon Textbooks. You can search by title, author or ISBN number. My advice is to search by ISBN number so you know that you are buying the correct edition.
  • When your search results come up, you will find new and used copies of the book available. The best deals are on used books. They will be rated acceptable, good, very good or like new. I typically buy very good or like new if I can get it at a good price. Many times, the cost of these books is 50% cheaper than the brand new ones.
  • When I am choosing which book to purchase, I am looking for 3 things in addition to the quality and price.
    1. Rating of the merchant – I want a merchant who has a great history of selling a lot of books and providing high customer service. It's the safer bet to choose a seller that has 100,000 happy customers as opposed to the one that has 100.
    2. Location of the seller – All things considered equally, I would prefer a seller that is geographically closest to me so I receive my shipment faster.
    3. Fulfillment through Amazon – I am looking for sellers that use Amazon to do the shipping for them. If the price and quality are equal, it's nice to get free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member. Additionally, Amazon Prime has speedy 2-day shipping instead of the ground shipping.
  • The early bird gets the best deals. As soon as the school releases the textbook list, I am online purchasing. Most people wait until the last minute to buy books. That means they will have a smaller selection, and they’ll have to pay for expedited shipping.
  • Sell your books back. At the end of a semester, you can sell your books back to recoup some of your costs. Our school offers a day where you can meet with next year's parents to sell books. They also have a day where you can sell to the company that offers them on the school website.
  • Selling books through Amazon can be a great deal. Amazon offers a Buy Back option on a lot of books, but not all. They pay for the shipping, then give you a gift card for their determined value of the book. You can also become a seller on Amazon or EBay, but your prices need to be better than sellers who have a great rating history.  Timing is everything if you decide to be a seller. Put your books up for sale when everyone is buying in August and September.

Real world examples:

I was buying my son a Geometry book. It was a brand new edition so the deals were not as great. If I had gone through the school for a new book, with ground shipping my cost would have been $86.59. Instead, I bought a used “like new” book (this is literally the same as new) with ground shipping for $48.56.  This was a 44% savings on a new edition textbook! For the cost of renting the book through the school website, we were able to own a virtually new book that we could sell back at the end of the year.

I typically do the easiest thing, which is to sell back to the company that handles the books for the school.  However, last year my son had a textbook that looked brand new that the school was only offering $4 for.  I then went on Amazon, which offered $27 for the same book.  Now I have a gift card to use for next semester's books!

If you put in a little extra online shopping effort and buy your books in a timely manner, you can get high quality textbooks at a savings of 40% or more. Happy learning at discount prices!

This has been a guest post by Jennifer from Los Angeles, CA
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