Some Tips for Saving Money on College Textbooks



If you haven’t yet discovered, the college textbook market is a fine example of monopoly pricing.  Once a professor has chosen a particular textbook, the students are locked into a single product.  The publishing company knows that students can’t shop for similar book by a different author, and, in turn, they set the price in order to maximize profits.  In the case of textbooks, this means you can easily pay $150 for a paperback textbook and over $200 for a hardbound textbook.   The fact that the book only costs $8 to print does not mean the book will sell for $14.  (Understanding this type of pricing decision is one of the ideas you will learn in “Intro to Microeconomics”.)


The NY Times wrote about the high price of textbooks.  Here is the original source article.  I suggest you read the article.  The article contains a number of good tips.


(1)   Buy used books.

(2)   Recent “old editions” often contain all the same key material as the current edition.  For economics textbooks, for example, often the material covered in each chapter is unchanged.  Chapter 3 will review “comparative advantage”, chapter 4 will cover “supply & demand”, chapter 5 will cover “elasticity”, etc. 
Check with your professor if you can use a recent edition instead of the current edition; most times the professor will say “yes”. 

Here is an example of the kind of money you can save: as of the day I am writing this note, a new (6th edition) paperback version of a popular economics textbook sells for $127 at (and over $150 at the RU bookstore).

By contrast, a previously owned 5th edition textbook costs less than $20 (including shipping).   Remarkably, the 5th and 6th editions have almost exactly the same content.  Buy used!

(3)   Some reputable online sources for used books are





(4)   The above list of vendors is not meant to be exhaustive.  I am sure there are many other good places to buy used books.

(5)   If possible, I would sell my old books at the end of each semester.