How to get textbooks for free

A simple method you can use to get your college textbooks for free! This was a trick I discovered late in college, that I wish I would have known about earlier because it could have saved me thousands over my college years.

It shouldn’t take more than a hour and could save you hundreds each semester.

Basically, the goal is to buy and sell the textbook for the same price – making it ($75-$75=$0) FREE!!

1. Find the cheapest priced textbooks.

Check Amazon and eBay.

Get the ISBN# from the barcode of the book and do a search on both for the cheapest used book.

Feel free to look other places like or Barnes and Noble, but Amazon and eBay are likely to be the cheapest.

Make sure you are getting the right edition for the class (I had many classes that it didn’t matter, but for the purposes of reselling, the newest edition will help).

2. Use it, but don’t abuse it

Folded pages, highlighting, rounded edges don’t affect the price very much, but missing covers or pages do. Don’t eat your book!

I know you are in college and probably short on cash, but if you are resorting to eating paper as a dietary supplement, stick with looseleaf; it is cheaper.

3. Get ready to sell those textbooks

After the fall semester you are going to want to sell them right away, because other anxious college kids will be looking to buy them up for the spring semester.

After the spring semester on the other hand, you should probably wait a couple months before looking to sell.

Remember: supply and demand.

How many college kids are looking to buy their textbooks for fall, when classes let out in May?

4. Don’t trade them in to the Campus Bookstore!

You want to list and sell them for best possible price, and that is NOT it.

There are many options for selling your books, but you want to find one where YOU are selling to the customer.

What you will find is that as long as every school in the U.S. hasn’t switched to a newer edition, you shouldn’t have a problem selling them for what you paid.

I like Amazon’s textbook store the best. They move a lot of books and if priced appropriately, you should be able to sell it quickly.

buying books on amazon

eBay is another good option, but I don’t think it is quite as easy as Amazon.

Once you go to Amazon’s textbook store you can begin the selling process by entering the ISBN#.


The whole process is pretty easy

It shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes for each book.

  • When setting your price, look to see what the lowest price is and go a few cents below that. This will help you to sell your book as quickly as possible. Check back every week or so and adjust your price so it is the cheapest listed. If your book is not in the 5-10 lowest priced books, it is unlikely that it will sell.
  • When you do sell your book, you will receive a notice via email with the buyer’s info. It is your responsibility to get it shipped ASAP. Not doing so will result in poor ratings and will make it more difficult to sell the next book.

price it lower than this

I did profit off a few books over my last year in college doing this.

You will find that some are winners and some are losers, but no matter what, I suggest that you sell textbooks online – you will be doing a whole lot better than those who buy their books new and sell them back to the campus bookstore.

Making this even simpler

If you don’t have time to actually go through the selling process (which does take a little time and energy) Amazon has a trade-in program.  Occasionally this can work out REALLY well and is a LOT quicker.

In the example we used, you can actually buy the book right now for $105 and trade it in for a $123 Amazon gift card (see image below).

selling textbooks on amazon for a profit


So definitely pass this along to any college kids you know!

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  1. Becky

    I wish I’d known about this when I was in college! Of course, that was almost 10 years ago now, so I don’t know how much the Internet was used for buying and selling textbooks at that time. Very good tip 🙂

  2. Centsible Shopper

    One great comparision site I’ve used for textbooks and other books is

  3. bob

    well – as I mentioned, I wish I would have figured it out earlier, but better late than never I guess…

    Thanks for sharing…

  4. Money Blue Book

    I’ve sold many textbooks in my day but I’ve never actually profited from the sale. By definition they are always sold at lower used prices. You sold them at cost? Impressive.

  5. bob

    @Money blue book
    I did sell a few below my cost -nicely discounted “USED” cost – most were right around what I paid for them – the goal was always to break even

  6. Tristan

    Textbooks are such a ripoff…at least at college bookstore prices. Oy! Online is definitely the way to go. I wish I had taken this advice a few years ago.

  7. Free From Broke

    I just saw what some of the textbooks that I need are gonna cost…I’m definitely gonna try to re-sell them once I’m done. Thanks for the info!

  8. NoDebtPlan

    I do the same thing and end up with books costing me $10-20 each (due to Amazon taking their cut and shipping costs). Sure beats a 75% loss selling back to the bookstore!

  9. Russell is very useful website to buy cheap textbooks they find the cheapest store online that sells your books.

  10. Patricia

    Off Campus bookstores are cheaper than online and on campus. Did you know that (eBay) calls the bookstores to list their Textbook online because of volume selling (more fees) than a single student.
    If you will check the feedback, note the one’s with 4ooo or higher they are bookstores. Also, the bookstores are laughing at students that buy online, because they list the books at a higher cost, and do not have to worry about returns due to drop/add.
    I know this because I worked in a College Bookstore for 4 years..

  11. bob

    Thanks for sharing – it is good getting some insight from a textbook “insider” 😉

  12. Sal

    Thanks Bob and all the posters for this post. It has definetly hit home. My wife recently decided to go back to college after a 10 year break =). I was blown away with the cost of these books. $50 -$100 each. Wow!!!! Thank you so much for these ideas. I plan to resell the books for her and shop around for better prices and will definetly use the difference to pay down debt.

  13. Matthew

    This is something I absolutely did during college. My best semester went something like this: I sold all the books from my current semester, bought all the books for my new semester, and somehow ended up with about a $100 profit. My friend (who just so happened to manage a local bookstore near campus) always makes fun of me and tells that story to people because I am the only guy he knows that bought all my books for the semester and made money in the process.

  14. Tina

    I found that is hands-down the best book price comparison site for buying and selling. Also- from the comfort of your home check out for the books that are required for your course well in advance.

  15. Lauren

    I did this in college and grad school. Make sure to email professors asking for syllabi as soon as you know what you will be taking the next semester, so you can order your books _well before_ the first day of class, as it may take up to a week or two to get them when you order on line. Also, pay the extra buck or two to get the book that is in better condition when you are buying the book–this will make it easier to sell later. It doesn’t matter how gentle you are with your book if it was a mess when you got it. And I disagree about highlighting–don’t highlight. It will make it easier to sell the book if the text is clean. And don’t list your book a cent below the lowest price. List it at the lowest price, or even a cent above. Many large scale sellers such as book stores have software that automatically lowers the price of their book if a cheaper listing appears. Therefore, if you go lower you will only trigger a downward cascading of the price, ultimately lowering the price you can get for your book.

    And in response to Patricia’s comment about bookstores being cheaper: it may be true that buying a book at the bookstore is cheaper than buying it from that same bookstore’s online presence, but if a bookstore in Texas is selling it for half as much as the bookstore next door, I’ll save money by buying on-line. There is no question that you will save money by buying textbooks on-line and reselling them on-line.

    Thanks for this article.

  16. Ken

    Some Amazon sellers have automatic repricing programs. It makes more sense, to me, to stay at the minimum price listed. If you under price you books, you run the risk of starting an avalanche to a penny.

  17. Susan Graby

    Another great way to go is to rent your textbooks. I started doing this for my son in college. He only buys books that he thinks he might want to keep and rents the rest at a great savings! They make it very easy by mailing the books to you and providing a pre-addressed mailer for the return. Some companies even allow some highlighting. I’ve used both and

  18. Dave

    I like renting textbooks since it’s so much cheaper. Use a service like to compare textbook rental prices. You’ll see there’s a pretty big different between one store to the next. It’s crazy alot of the time you’ll even see used books for cheaper than rentals too!

  19. Kim

    Very good advice. My daughter and I will use it well for the fall and spring semesters. Thank you for your great ideas!!

    • Bob

      You are welcome Kim!

  20. Mary

    Also, a student started a Tradebook Page on Facebook for the university that I attend, we connect with other students to see if we can trade textbooks, some will offer their textbook for free, and some will sell it at a very good price. You can also meet on campus around public areas for safety, which is how I purchased a book that I paid $40 instead of $180.

    • Bob

      Sounds like a great idea Mary!

  21. philip ocheni

    Thank you. Great information.

  22. Brian Lund

    Very helpful post Bob. I especially like how you detailed everything out and made it as ‘step-by-step’ as possible. If I were in college this would have made it very easy for me to get my books for free. Alas, I’m done with college for the time being 🙂 but maybe one day I’ll return for my masters. It’ll be nice to know I can at least get my books for free.

    • Bob

      Yep you sure can!

  23. Brittany

    Good tips, thankyou! 🙂 The best way I saved during my years as well was to check out the on campus library! I was able to borrow so many books and “recheck them out” throughout the semester. True they might be 5 editions old, but they would only change a picture or two or reorder the chapters. I must’ve saved hundreds!

  24. Charmaine

    Wish we had done this while we were still in school!

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