How to Get Free College Textbooks + Other Cheap Options

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Save on college expenses by shopping around for cheap textbooks and even FREE college textbooks!

desk with textbooks

Here’s one area where you can save big for college! 📚

College is expensive! Luckily, textbooks can be one of the easiest ways to save some money. Whether you have a student about to start their college journey or you’re going back to school for your Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s, here are some smart ways to save some money by sourcing cheap textbooks. Follow these tips and you might just find some of your college textbooks free of charge!


Find free college textbooks online!

Several websites offer FREE digital versions of college textbooks. Here are the top websites to search.


1. Bookboon has thousands of free college textbooks.

woman searching bookboon on computer for free college textbooks

Bookboon has tons of textbooks in ebook format and the site will be most helpful to students studying business or STEM fields. It is typically a subscription service, but students can get an account for FREE! Create an account to choose the student-level subscription. You’ll also get access to tons of professional development ebooks!


2.  Search for downloadable textbooks on Library Genesis.

students studying

Library Genesis is a large database of free college books and academic journals. They are available to download and you don’t even need to create an account!

Hip Tip: One Hip2Save reader mentioned to Google the title (maybe even the author as well) with “.pdf” at the end. Many college libraries have free online editions and you don’t even have to be a student to download them!


3. BCcampus OpenEd seeks to make textbooks accessible to all. 

man using computer to search BCcampus OpenEd for free or cheap college textbooks

On BCcampus.ca, browse by subject or search by keyword. A search for “communications” brought up 315 recent edition textbooks. This site is worth checking out!


4. Browse by subject at Open Textbook Library.

girl typing on computer laptop

Open Textbook Library is one to visit if you’re looking for free college textbooks online. It’s easy to search and has many recent editions. You can browse by subject or simply type in a keyword. They have textbooks in Spanish too. All the textbooks are 100% free to download and you can even rate them afterward!


5. Humanities majors can find college textbooks free at Project Gutenberg.

Woman using Cell Phone and Laptop

This website doesn’t just have free college textbooks, it also has free classics and literary fiction. Humanities students will enjoy browsing the titles and may have good luck finding their textbooks and assigned reading material here. There are over 70,000 completely free ebooks!


6. The LibreText Project hopes to combat the high cost of college textbooks.

Libre Texts Shown On A Computer

College students will want to bookmark the LibreText Project website. This non-commercial open library has a user-friendly interface and offers free college textbooks online for everyone. Find college books on the subjects of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Biosciences, Mathematics, Medicine, Social Sciences, and more! You can browse all the bookshelves or search by school!


7. The Internet Archive’s Open Library Project has over 1,600 college textbooks for free.

man browsing for college textbooks free on Open Library

Sign up for a free account on Open Library. It’s so easy to search as they have a special category for textbooks. The selection spans several categories from chemistry to literature. You can “borrow” these books and read them on your computer. Don’t forget to check this site for additional reading materials for your college courses and popular fiction from authors like Stephen King!


Other sites to search for free college textbooks and reference materials include:

Hip Tip: These downloadable books will keep your backpack light! Digital books are also great because you can use the Find function (using the keys Command+F on Macs and Ctrl+F on PC) for quick content searches. 😉


Don’t pay full price! Buy cheap textbooks instead.

The university bookstore will have some of the highest prices. Buy your books here instead.

1.  Get up to 90% off the price of textbooks at Amazon.

amazon boxes and packages stacked on an accent chair

Amazon has pretty much everything, including a dedicated Amazon Textbooks Store, where you can score new or used college textbooks for 90% off their regular retail price. And with Prime Student, you’ll even get free, 2-day shipping. Talk about cheap textbooks!


2. Thriftbooks textbooks are easy on the wallet.

books on a wall

This website is the bomb.com! They have so many used textbooks and all the prices are slashed! If you plan to buy books every semester from ThriftBooks, you’ll want to sign up for ReadingRewards where you’ll earn points on every dollar spent to redeem for FREE books!


3. Score cheap college textbooks at AbeBooks

stack of free or cheap college textbooks

AbeBooks has one of the largest collections of used and rare books. You can get a great price for cheap college textbooks and other assigned reading when you shop their site. When you’re done with the semester, you can earn some of your money back by selling your textbooks on AbeBooks as well!


4. Join the Alibris.com email list to score discounts toward your textbooks!

Man searching the Alibris website to find cheap textbooks

Maggie, a Hip2Save reader, tipped us off about this highly-rated website. Here you can find tons of books, music, and movies all for fantastic prices. They even have a section dedicated to new and used textbooks with some up to 80% off!

Also, make sure to join their mailing list because we hear that almost every week they send their customers coupons for a certain amount off your purchase! You’ll even get a $5 off coupon just for signing up. Plus, when you’re done with your book, you can trade it back to the store for cash! Thank you so much, Maggie, for this helpful tip on how to find cheap textbooks! 🙌 💛


5. Check out Facebook Marketplace to score bargains.

hand holding phone with facebook marketplace on screen

Long gone are the days when you had to know someone looking for the specific book you once paid full price for. Now students can post their books for sale on Facebook, so it’s a great way to source used books locally. You can also check Craigslist and eBay if you don’t luck out on Facebook. Chances are, those college students will haggle to pay for some groceries. 😉

Hip Tip: Write what you paid for on the inside of the book and you’ll know how to price it when it comes time for you to sell!


6. Stores like Barnes and Noble offer digital copies at lower prices.

Barnes & Noble Storefront

If you shop online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, they often have a digital book version for the Kindle or Nook. These books are almost always offered at a lower cost than a hardcover or paperback! Better yet, you can access these cheap college books on a variety of devices, from your laptop to your tablet to your phone, so they can always be within reach for easy studying.


Renting textbooks will save you money and time!

Why buy when you can rent? Here’s where to do it:

1. Amazon textbook rental is easy-peasy!

woman browsing Digital Textbook Rentals on Amazon

Amazon has shut down their print textbook rentals as of April 2023, but they still offer digital textbook rentals! They have over 50,000 titles. To find cheap college books for rent, simply search the category “Kindle textbooks” to see which are available. If you can rent a title, you’ll see that near the price of the book. Rent for 90 days or more! The price will vary depending on the length of rental you choose.


2. Get Chegg textbooks 90% off when you use their rental service.

university tablet and books

You can save up to 90% off college textbooks when you rent from Chegg! They have a 21-day risk-free return which means you won’t be out of money if you end up dropping a class. You can rent your book for as long as needed since Chegg offers extensions. They also sell books too if you’d like to keep yours after your class ends. Plus, Chegg offers study tips for students and career insight for those close to graduation!


3. Knetbooks textbook rental comes highly recommended.

Person holding a stack of college textbooks

Knetbooks offers a textbook rental service that can score you up to 85% off vs buying textbooks at the university bookstore! Select the rental period best for you and get your books shipped free! You can even opt-in for texts so that you get alerted when your books arrive and again when it’s time to return them. Better yet, get $5 off your Knetbooks order when you text OWL to 87955!


4. Campus Books can help you save up to 87%

black mailbox

This popular rental service offers you a buy versus rent comparison so you know which option costs less. If you decide to rent, you can help save up to 87% on books. Rentals last for up to 150 days and Campus Books offers free shipping both ways!


5. eCampus offers long rental durations.

A book and glasses

This website offers long rental terms like 180 days, 365 days, or even a lifetime! Plus, eCampus has a textbook price comparison that analyzes prices from up to 70,000 sellers to ensure you get the best deal. This service is a bit unusual as they allow you to highlight your text so long as you don’t cause any excessive damage.


6. ValoreBooks has a price match guarantee.

college textbooks on desk

If you find a lower price on a book within 7 days, ValoreBooks promises to price match it. They also have free return shipping and flexible rental terms!


7. Don’t overlook the public library.

huge three story library

You may need additional novels to get you through a college class, or you might need to borrow a textbook while you’re waiting for yours to arrive. Your local library or campus library is a great (and free) resource!


Save even more on textbooks with these savvy tips!

College comes with so many expenses. It’s good to save where you can! Cut costs with these clever tricks:

1.  Compare before you shop with CampusBooks.

cheap and free college textbook

Make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal on your textbook with CampusBooks.com. You can compare prices on new or used books from top brands such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Chegg, eCampus.com. You can save up to 90% off.

Also, try Slugbooks and BigWords. They are two textbook price comparison websites that come highly recommended by Hip2Save readers!


2.  Share books with a classmate.

women reading and writing at picnic table

If you have a close friend, relative, or roommate who’ll be in the same class, consider sharing cheap textbooks together if you can swing it. Of course, this will take some planning and confidence that both parties will take good care of the book. That said, it’s more than worth it when you can score the textbook for 50% off since you went halfsies. 


3.  Get someone else to foot the bill.

money bills and coins in glass jar

Your employer may offer tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement that covers textbooks. See your benefits policy or contact HR to find out if you or your dependents qualify.

If you have a scholarship or grant, check the stipulations to know if you can use those funds to cover textbook costs. Lastly, you can sometimes use financial aid to pay for textbooks. However, you may be required to buy from the university bookstore which is usually expensive. Check with your Financial Aid office for permission and to find out any restrictions.

Hip Tip: If you don’t already have a scholarship or grant, check out the many ways to apply for scholarships or grants to help with costs.


4. Get permission to buy an older version of the book you need.

person holding books

According to the Calpirg Higher Education Project, newer editions cost about 58% more than the older version. Yet, oftentimes, newer books aren’t much different than their slightly older version.

The pages may be numbered differently, but it’s worth checking with your professor first to see if an older edition can be used. Make sure to get permission, as sometimes the information is too outdated!

Hip Tip:  Unsure if you are going to drop a class? Hold off on buying the book until you decide. There is no reason to buy a book you don’t need! If you do have to sell a book, there’s more demand near the start of a semester versus the end.


Want more? Check out THESE college-related posts:


About the writer:

Kara is a writer and photographer from the Midwest. Her creative work has appeared in various publications over the past decade. With a background in finance, she loves to be money-savvy.


Join The Discussion

Comments 48

  1. Bethany

    As a former college student, I would like to say renting is by far the best way to get textbooks. Of course, not everyone can depending on the major, but if you can it will save you a ton.

    Although I did have financial aid for textbooks, I typically never used it and just paid out of pocket upfront for books and received the refund later. Books are always more overpriced at the campus bookstore compared to other rental places. So I figured why not get that extra money in a refund? I know not all students can do this but it is an option.

    Amazon textbook rental and chegg helped save me a lot. I always suggest looking around on diff sites and comparing costs before purchasing.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for taking a moment to share your experience, Bethany! Good to know renting worked out so well for you!

  2. Kay

    My kids have used this website – https://www.campusbooks.com. It shows the price for purchases, rentals, etc. for your books for a bunch of different sources so you can get the best price. It usually means that you are getting your books from more than one place, but my kids have saved so much money they say that it doesn’t matter that their books are coming in different shipments!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh cool! Thanks a bunch for the helpful suggestion!

  3. Rosa

    My daughter and son used Bigwords.com. They compare all websites and include coupons and even break out shipping costs so you can see the total price of a book. It includes both options to rent or buy. Saved our family TONS of money!!

    • tipaye

      Agreed, I love that site!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      SWEET! Thanks for sharing with us, Rosa! Good to know!

  4. kayti

    Try hoopla! I’ve used it MANY times for books and text books for FREE! Also, don’t use a loan for it. Trust me you will end up paying WAY more with interest than you would using another one of these methods!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the helpful comment!

  5. Lizzie

    I always use offer up for textbooks. Just search for the isbn to make sure it’s the right one. I’ve gotten $200 math books for $70…better than renting imo because you can resell it when you’re done.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh wow! Thanks for letting us know what has worked best for you! I use to like to resell my books!

  6. Sarah

    I got an international edition of books several times. You can’t sell them back, so it’s best if you plan on keeping it or have someone you can sell it to afterwards, but you’ll save a lot of money.

  7. MT

    I’m a professor. If any law students are reading this, please do not follow the advice to use outdated editions of your casebooks! Using old editions is truly terrible advice for any law students. Students who show up with old editions cannot find assignments when called on to answer question like “what is the court’s point in the opinion at the bottom of p. 454?” These students always end up lost in class and frantically flipping pages when analyze specific passages. Worst of all, they sometimes do very poorly on exams by citing outdated law that’s no longer referenced in the current edition. Also, even if you buy a used current edition, please be aware that there’s often online companion content from the publishers now that your professors may expect you to be able to access (and even assign on the syllabus), so buying a used book may mean shelling out another $30 for an online access key to go with your used edition. The access keys are usually included in the new editions but don’t transfer.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh wow! Thanks a TON for mentioning that information, MT!

  8. Ro

    As a (struggling) college student, here are some tips and personal experiences.

    I never used Financial Aid to cover for my books, never understood why students would do this. Pay for books out of pocket. You will receive a larger refund – it appears many students can’t make sense of this. If you’re using Financial Aid, you’re restricted to the school’s bookstore where prices are inflated. Stay away from the university bookstore, if that is not possible, ask if they price match – most do!

    I use various websites, Chegg, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Thriftbooks. Thriftbooks.com is my favorite – you earn points that can later be redeemed for books. Shipping is free when you spend $10. I tend to purchase my books before the semester commences and have secured better deals this way (Price and demand? Not sure.) If purchasing textbooks before the academic term begins, I suggest contacting your instructor to ensure class material.

    Renting textbooks has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
    I advise renting schoolbooks for courses irrelevant to your major. Reflecting on my undergrad, I wish someone would have shared this with me. There are several textbooks I immensely regret not purchasing. These are books that could have assisted me with additional courses in my academic career.

    Now textbook access codes are the enemy. Courses that require access codes force students to purchase books at retail prices. I have no advice in this area.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for sharing your tips and experience with us! It sure is helpful!

  9. Shayleen

    I second Bigwords.com! I graduated just a couple years ago and saved tons of money by using Bigwords when I was buying my textbooks! It’s like the Hip2Save for curating textbook deals!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How neat! Glad that site helped you snag such great savings!

  10. Lori

    What a great post! Thanks for all the info and advice.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You are SO welcome, Lori! Glad these tips were helpful!

  11. Lucy

    Also professors shouldn’t mention a book on the syllabus if it won’t be used during the semester. As a freshman, I purchased a $200 textbook that was on the syllabus and never opened the book, it wasn’t needed. Some professors actually help you out and tell you where to find a low cost version of the textbook or if you can use an older version (if you aren’t sure, email them and ask) because they know most students are low on money.

    • Dee

      I knew professors that put their books (the ones they’d authored) on the syllabus to increase their sales. Not fair to the students at all. I always separated required books from references on the syllabus. Some profs don’t even know how much the books cost, since they can often get a free copy on spec. I always kept price in mind and the books I required were workbooks used in class almost every day.

  12. Kailey

    It’s an extension on sharing with a roommate, but you can potentially share the book with anyone in the class! That is how I got to know the man who became my husband- I asked to share with a friend who was sharing with him while waiting for her book to come in! Once it did, he said since he lived closer he’d just keep bringing me the book when he was done. When we had been dating for a year, he gave me the book with a love letter written a word per page and I gave him another copy of it that I wrote in on our wedding day five years ago. Yay for book sharing!!!!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh how sweet! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Kailey! LOVE that! 💖

  13. Jain

    As one of several who went to college at the same time, this is some of what we did to minimize textbook costs.

    We almost never bought from the campus book store unless they had a used edition that was competitively priced. Ebay, craigslist, Amazon, Half Price Books, and Abe Books were the places we went to most if the time. And if you’re buying off craigslist or Facebook, don’t we afraid to make an offer, usually the seller is open to anything fair. If an access code was needed, I would check places like Ebay or craigslist. Most of the time I could find them cheaper, and the code usually comes with a digital copy of the book. Some Ebay sellers will be able to tell you if the code is the right one if you give them the course number.

    Slugbooks is a price comparing website that we used a lot to compare purchase and rental prices for several books at the same time.

    A lot of times I’d email the professor a week or two before semester and ask if I could use an older or international edition. Most of the time they were ok with that and knew of some of the differences to look out for. Professors told me all the time that they couldn’t outright tell the class not to buy the book, publisher agreements or something like that, but that it might not be needed all that much. One professor was even nice enough to let me use one of her extra copies when I stopped by her office to ask about the textbook.

    Rentals were a hit and miss for us, but we always checked to be sure. If we could rent a book for about the same as buying it, then we would just buy it and sell it when we’re done and get our money back. Also, holding onto textbooks might mean a new edition comes out by the time you get around to selling it, so keep that in mind.

    We never sold our books back to the school or local book stores because they paid so much less. Instead, I’d write what I paid on the inside page and that’s what I’d sell it for. Since I hunted for the best price, I was usually able to sell the book pretty fast. If there’s a forum the students use, that’s another good place to advertise your textbooks.

    End of semester was usually a bad time to sell since students were done with class and not thinking about the books they’d need for next semester, unless that class was offered in the summer or as a minimester.

    Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to include everything we learned over the years. Happy hunting!

  14. Andy

    Before spending any money on books do a google search of the title (maybe author) with “.pdf” at the end. Many college libraries have free online editions and you don’t even have to be a student to download it. This works for other books to FYI. Wish I had this tip the first 3 years of college…

    • Andy

      Also, if you are near an Ollies Bagain Outlet, they have a large selection of cheap books. I have found some of the books I purchased (for much more $) there. Good if you are taking a literature class.

  15. Ashley

    Ohio Students: OhioLINK (ohiolink.edu) is a program that allows students to borrow college text books between almost all Ohio colleges and universities. As a student I was able to pick up reserved books at my university’s library. This program was great for having access to books that I was not planning to keep long term and/or were astronomically expensive. Some professors wrote their own material, and at times, required textbooks were not available, so I did have to make several book & computer add on purchases. However, this program saved me thousands of dollars while in nursing school. Other states may have similar programs available. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth looking into!

  16. CaseyB

    I’m working on my second master’s degree and I have been renting books. I tried to download one, but I had too hard of a time reading from an iPad. I kept losing my place and could not seem to pay attention. Maybe it’s my age, but I have found that I like print books much better. I will say though, I wish I had bought them instead. I am going to be a school counselor and I needed them to refer back to for other classes. I didn’t find this necessary for my undergrad, but if you are going to rent make sure that you won’t need the book in the future. Also, international editions are pretty much the same as other additions and can be much cheaper, so if you see those cheaper, grab one!

  17. Sarah

    I got through grad school by buying international editions. They’re the same but usually have a paperback instead of a hardback. They are about 1/2-1/3 the price. This was approaching 10 years ago, so this may have changed since then.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Aww, SO sweet! Thanks for the kind comment, Jen! It sure means a lot. 🥰❤️

  18. Ashley

    OHIO STUDENTS- OhioLink (ohiolink.edu) is a shared library management system, meaning you can check out books from other Ohio campuses and have them picked up at your school’s library. You can’t write in them, because they are library books. However, borrowing vs renting in nursing school saved me THOUSANDS. My husband was also to take advantage of this program during grad school. I wouldn’t be surprised if other states offer a similar program.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks a ton for your helpful tip, Ashley! 💕🙌

  19. Colleen

    If your public of college library doesn’t have the book you are looking for, you can generally request it from another through interlibrary loan. I recently completed a graduate degree and didn’t purchase any books since i was able to get them all through the my college and local libraries.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s awesome, Colleen! Thanks for sharing how you were able to score your books! Good to know! 💕🙌🤗

  20. Jen

    I’m very grateful for this list. I work at a university and refer students to this post often to help them afford school.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s awesome! Happy you can pass along this list, Jen! ❤️🎉

  21. rockyroad

    My online school has books included as part of the tuition. All books are online but I’m so glad I don’t have to purchase physical books anymore and try to find a good price. My school is called WGU if anyone is interested 🦉

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How neat! I would have loved that when I was in college.🙌 I remember trying to get to the book store as soon as I could to be sure the books I needed were available. Thanks for sharing! ❤️🤗

  22. Alex

    Some works of literature that are required reading for English courses are old enough that they are in the public domain – that mean’s it’s legally free online! Your professor might want you to have a certain edition for class, such as Shakespeare’s works, but it’s an option.

    Also, as has been mentioned, don’t forget to use your university/college’s library. You’re paying for access with your tuition, so put it to good use! They often have online or physical copies of textbooks, some of which as placed on reserve for certain classes, so ask the front desk for help. Also, if you have an awesome teacher, they may let you borrow their own copy for a chapter or two.

    Reference: I’m an academic librarian, haha.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      These are great tips, Alex! 🎉 SO helpful! Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us! Much appreciated! 🥰

  23. Maggie

    Alibris.com is another great place to check for ALL types of books (textbooks and regular books) — they aggregate sellers from many different platforms so that you can compare the with shipping. They send out $10-20 coupons by email just about every week, so get on their mailing list.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh awesome! Thanks for sharing that, Maggie! 💞

  24. kerancollier

    I apologize, but as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, I don’t have information specifically about eCampus and its rental durations. It’s possible that eCampus, an online platform that provides educational resources and materials, may offer long rental durations for textbooks and other study materials. However, I recommend visiting the eCampus website or contacting their customer support for the most accurate and up-to-date information on their rental durations.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Hey there! It looks like eCampus offers rental durations that are either by quarter, semester, or short-term. Hoping that might be helpful! 💓

  25. Ali S.

    The university that I work for loans textbooks to military veterans and their dependents. Check with your college’s veteran’s services offices to see if they offer this as well!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      So awesome, Ali S.! 🙌 Thanks for letting readers know about this offer. 💕

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