CampusGrotto recommends textbook rental as the best way to save money on textbooks as it requires less money up front for the budget-conscious student. See the part of this study that looked at the best places to rent textbooks below.

Some students, however, prefer to buy college textbooks brand new. Owning the textbook allows you to mark it up and make as many notes and highlights as needed. Keeping this book in your own personal library also allows you to easily go back and use it as a reference down the road.

If you do plan on keeping your textbook and want to buy the textbook brand new, we recommend buying from these textbook websites ranked in order of price (lowest to highest).

Cheapest Textbook Websites

  2. Barnes & Noble
  3. << Will Price Match
  5. BookByte (no longer in business)

How did we determine this ranking?

It seems every online textbook seller claims to be one of the cheapest places to buy textbooks. So, we wanted to find out for a fact who sells the cheapest textbooks online. We selected 8 major online textbook sellers and compared prices of six selected textbooks from various subjects.

Textbooks Used in this Study:

  1. Applied Calculus ISBN: 0470170522
  2. Business Law ISBN: 0136085547
  3. Chemistry: A Molecular Approach ISBN: 0321651782
  4. Financial Accounting ISBN:0324651147
  5. Principles of Marketing ISBN: 0136079415
  6. Social Psychology ISBN: 0073370665

See Price Data Below

All of these textbooks were in their current editions during the time in which price data was taken for this study. The goal is to find out who actually sells the cheapest textbooks, shipping included, on the Internet. Of course, there may be other methods of obtaining books cheaper than this by buying the eTextbook, buying used, or simply going with a past version from your school's library... all solid options for frugal students. This study compares the cost of new textbooks and the added shipping costs, if applicable. (Many online textbook sellers offer free shipping.)

Best Place to Rent Textbooks

Of course, not all students need to keep their textbooks after use, which is why renting textbooks is becoming very popular. The following ranking looks at the cheapest places to rent your textbooks. A few of the textbook retailers listed above offer a guaranteed buyback when you buy the book. Since this is very similar to a short term rental we also factored in their cost as well (Original Cost – Guaranteed Buyback Price) to determine the total out-of-pocket cost to the student.

If you don't plan on keeping your textbook, you should get your books from one of these cheaper options:

  4. rentals
  6. eCampus rentals
  7. rentals


Cheapest Place to Rent Textbooks:

According to this study, is clearly the cheapest option for getting your textbooks.

Cheapest Place to Buy Textbooks:, probably the most well known website on this list, not only has the cheapest prices on textbooks, they also offer a very generous buyback option.

Best Textbook Retailer: really lives by its motto of having the most choices and some of the best prices. At you can rent your textbooks, buy it from them new or used, or even buy from others in their online marketplace. With the Best Price Guarantee they will price match prices found on Having this many options with great prices makes them the best online textbook website of this study.

Best Textbook Price Comparison Website: is good if you want to find the cheapest new and used books on the market at the click of a button. Basically, it aggregates prices from Chegg,, TextbookX, Abebooks, Amazon, etc. Granted this study is for new textbooks, BigWords is even a better option if you're looking for used textbooks.

New Textbook Prices Data:

Book 1Book 2Book 3Book 4Book 5Book 6Total $113.72$147.26$152.17$145.71$165.31$115.61$839.78
Barnes & Noble$108.03$156.45$164.00$162.71$174.16$107.30$872.65$126.00$175.22$183.68$180.04$173.60$138.32$976.86$168.74$132.89$132.04$230.36$219.62$108.27$991.92$136.35$180.40$196.80$195.30$186.00$140.35$1,035.20$147.20$181.25$188.50$189.95$181.25$154.75$1,042.90$156.00$203.38$211.58$208.70$186.91$156.50$1,123.07$144.58$188.49$248.80$208.95$186.25$148.80$1,125.87

Prices taken January 3, 2011

Textbook Rental Prices Data:

Book 1Book 2Book 3Book 4Book 5Book 6Total$49.98$58.62$63.56$55.29$46.34$46.15$319.94$60.98$68.62$64.58$51.76$55.73$60.05$361.72$52.43$56.94$60.57$61.15$90.81$43.26$365.16$63.68$69.61$65.58$52.76$56.73$61.05$369.41 rentals $70.49$85.99$79.99$84.99$57.99$71.49$450.94 $74.01$90.29$83.99$89.24$60.89$75.06$473.48 rentals $69.05$90.01$91.60$94.40$80.92$71.89$497.87 $103.49 $48.47 $45.67 $161.83$200.79$38.77 $599.02 $77.85$108.58$130.69$125.77$138.25$77.66$658.80

Rental priced for semester
Prices taken January 3, 2011

About the Author:


Ted Reimers

University of Washington Graduate and Publisher of
Ted shares tips for getting college textbooks cheap based on his own experiences, advice from hundreds of students who provided input in a college survey of the best ways to save money, and through experiences conducting college textbook cost surveys.