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Articles / Applying to College / Buy Used College Text Books

Buy Used College Text Books

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | May 26, 2004

Question: I will start college in the fall and need to know where I can buy the lowest-priced, good quality books. I have to pay for them myself so I am trying to find a cheaper alternative than the campus bookstore. Are there any Web sites I should try?

College books can be a big-ticket expense, and you are wise to look for alternatives to buying them all brand-spankin' new. To assist with your quest, I simply tried typing "Cheap College Texts" and "Used College Texts" into the Google search engine, and was rewarded with many results. These included:



While the sites looked legit to me, I haven't had personal experience with any of them. I have, however, bought used books from Amazon.com on many occasions and have always been pleased. Some of these were biographies, novels, or books about history--so, while none were actual text books, they were all the sorts of topics that might crop up on college reading lists.

If you've never tried Amazon before, just go to the home page (www.amazon.com). Search under "Books" for the titles you need and, if you find the book you're looking for, you'll see that there is often an option to buy it used. If you click on that, you can find out how many used copies are available, and the price and condition of each. You complete your transaction online through Amazon, but the book come to you from another independent dealer. I've bought books that way for as little as 86 cents (the postage was four times more!), and each one has always arrived promptly and was just as described.

If there are locally owned used-book shops in your community, they can be a great source of novels and non-fiction. Those in college areas often carry text books, too, though many won't.

Obviously, it would be helpful for you to get your hands on class syllabi as far in advance as possible to see what texts and other books you'll need. You also have to check carefully to make sure you're not buying an out-of-date edition of a text. (Remember, however, that most frosh course selections aren't set in stone until after the fall semester is underway. Don't get stuck with books you won't need.)

Check, too--if you haven't done so already--with college officials to see what sort of used-book sales are offered right on campus. (The Office of Admission can direct you to the right place to call.) Most campus bookstores also offer a "Used Book" section, though some are far more complete than others.

Good luck with your search, and best wishes for a great college career.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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