Tips for Ordering Textbooks

I finally got around to ordering my textbooks for the fall semester the other day and although I’m a little miffed about still having to spend over $300, I’m also very glad to know that’s half the price I could have spent if I didn’t shop smart. So today I would like to share with you how I did it.

1. Preparation

First, of course, you need to find out which books you need and record the ISBNs. It’s also important to make sure you know if the class requires any materials like CDs or Access Codes along with the book. I had several that did require these things, so I had to be extra careful to make sure these things would be included.

2. The Shopping

It’s time to check Slugbooks. This is a safe, user-friendly website that I decided to try – and I’m so glad I did. All you have to do is copy and paste the ISBN into the search bar and it will show an overview of the lowest possible prices on several major online textbook stores (see Gallery 2 for an example). You can just click on the one you want and it’ll take you to that site for you to browse! Best of all, Slugbooks keeps track of all of your books in a nifty Booklist so you don’t have to re-do the whole ISBN search every time (but I’m sure clearing your Browsing History/Cookies/Something will affect this. Still, it’s super helpful to have).


  • You can rent or buy – I chose to buy everything but renting is often even more affordable.
  • You have to make sure all your CDs or Access Codes or whatever you need is included – Slugbooks told me one of my books was available for $3 on Amazon and I got all excited before realizing it didn’t include the CDs and wasn’t in great condition. I was still able to buy a great version that had all of the necessary materials at $15!
  • Always check your school bookstore’s website, too! In some cases, these prices were nearly the same as online. If you can get a book priced like that via your school, it decreases any risk factor there might be in online shopping and it’s a fair deal!
  • Do not rule out used text books – if anything, welcome them into your open arms with a smile because they can be much cheaper than new copies. Most descriptions on Amazon and other sites will tell you the quality of a book – whether the corner of a paperback’s cover is folded or there is highlighting and annotations in the book. Whatever you prefer, you can typically find a version that’s good for you.
  • If you are going to use Amazon (almost all of my books were ordered through Amazon), get an Amazon Student account. This could save you a little extra dough. It’s easy (and free!) to do and gives you free two-day shipping for six months, plus a bunch of other neat benefits. Mostly, I did it for the free two-day shipping with my textbooks in mind. However, I will say that most of the things I ordered were not eligible for Amazon Prime and therefore did not offer any two-day shipping, which I would’ve gotten for free. So it’s not a catch-all but it did save me a few extra bucks.
  • It’s always a possibility you don’t even need a certain textbook. Do not ever assume this. But, as an obscure example, if a class lists a book of the Complete Works of Lewis Carroll and you happen to already own most of his stories and books, maybe you won’t need to drop another $35 on the book. Better yet, e-mail your professor and inquire how much you will be using the text-books and if there are any alternatives, like printed versions or online versions. Another option is to split the price with a friend who is taking a class with you if you think you can share or to ask friends who already took the class to see if they still had their copy lying around.

3. The Aftermath

The final step is actually to celebrate. In my case, I just finished ordering my very first round of textbooks! Hooray! One great suggestion is to add up the amount you could’ve paid if you had just bought books straight from your school’s bookstore and calculate how much you saved because you’re a smarty who shopped so savvily!

If I had bought through the bookstore: $620
After doing my research: $330
Total savings: Almost $300!

That’s the story of how I cut the price of my books nearly in half. Thanks for reading!
How do you shop for text books? Feel free to share your best tips or favorite sites in the comments!