How to Find Textbooks Online for Less
Save on College Textbooks With These Websites and Apps
Textbook websites and apps can help take some of the sting out of the high cost of college by helping you find textbooks online for less than you'd pay at the bookstore. Use these tools to search for the cheapest book to buy or rent or to download an etextbook to a mobile device.
Textbook Price Comparison Websites and Apps.There are dozens of sites that sell, rent, and buy textbooks. Finding the cheapest source for each book can be ridiculously time consuming. Our research into the cheapest college textbook sites found that no single provider consistently delivers the best pricing on any book you might need. Turning to comparison sites with a list of required texts in hand is the most efficient way to find college textbooks online. Here are several textbook websites and apps worth trying:
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Affordabookis a website, app for iPad and Android, and browser add-on for PCs and Macs. Affordabook searches 10 "trusted" textbook websites for the lowest purchase or rental price and lets you execute an order without going to another site. If an etextbook is available, it surfaces in the search.
Bargainbookmoleis a website and browser add-on for PCs or Macs. This textbook comparison site filters searches by new or used and ranks them from cheapest to most expensive. You can also sell books through the site, which compares buyback prices. Bargainbookmole lets you do good at the same time: 5 percent of proceeds go to nonprofits.
TextbookMeis an app for iOS devices and works with Android through Google Play to find college textbooks online. This textbook comparison app searches through many sites and lists prices from lowest to highest for new, used, and rental books. Clicking on a selection takes you to the seller's site. If you're standing in your campus bookstore, aghast at the price of the book on the shelf, scan the barcode with a phone camera and you'll automatically get to a cheaper alternative.
Campus LIbreis an online student buying and selling marketplace that works on iOS devices and web browsers. You can choose your school and the course number and find students from whom you can buy or to whom you can sell books. If no such exchange is available, Campus Libre works like other comparison sites and provides a list of online textbook vendors.
Etextbook Vendors.For a variety of reasons, including the inability to resell them, etextbooks haven't yet caught on in a big way: A recent Reuters report notes that 77 percent of students still prefer physical books. Most etextbooks are not available in interactive formats and many electronic versions are little more than a PDF of the actual book. Etextbooks are also more expensive than a used or rented volume, although cheaper than buying new in the campus bookstore. Still, the convenience of reading a text on a tablet, being able to download individual chapters, and getting lots of interactive material is appealing.
Currently, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Apple sell some electronic texts (usually static versions) for their respective devices that also can be accessed through a browser. Etextbooks from these vendors are also available through appropriate apps. Additionally, some online textbook vendors sell interactive etextbooks for all sorts of devices:
Cheggoffers print textbooks for sale, rent, or buyback and also etextbooks for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. For a list of 2,500 textbooks, customers who subscribe to Chegg's Homework Help service can get step-by-step "solutions" to the problems in the books they buy or rent through the site. Round-the-clock interactive study help is also available online.
Inklingmaintains a small inventory of etextbooks for the iPad and Chrome and Safari web browsers (although its wares work in any browser, the full format might not be displayed). What Inkling lacks in quantity, though, it makes up for in quality. All of its electronic books are interactive, with search, embedded videos, pop-up key terms, highlighting, and sticky-note writing. There are interactive tests and quizzes, and the ability to share notes and highlights with other students. One incentive to patronize Inkling is the option of buying one chapter at a time. Although the total price for all chapters purchased individually ends up being a bit higher than the full ebook price, you don't have to buy the entire book if only a few sections are assigned.
CourseSmartsells etextbooks only for iOS and Android devices and web browsers. One advantage of Coursesmart is being able to read offline as well as online with an app. As with most etextbook apps, you can highlight, take notes, and search the text. Pagination is the same as the hard copy, so if certain page numbers are assigned, you can find what you need. These ebooks merely replicate the paper versions, but an eresources section on the company site offers interactive material with links to associated websites, online homework and quizzes, and videos associated with some texts for a price. (Check the details after paying an upfront fee.) This material is available for two years after purchase and may contain the textbook, in which case you are merely renting the ebook for the duration.
Google Playis new to the textbook world as of August 2013 and is suited for PCs or Android devices. Google has partnered with some major textbook publishers, from whom you can download texts that have several interactive features. You can purchase the etexts or rent them for six months.