High Book Costs: Leaves of Gold?

A stack of books

Learn how to maintain low costs as your book count climbs higher and higher.

Worth Their Weight In Gold (Almost)

The costs associated with a degree can be overwhelming on paper. Tuition is not cheap, and campus housing can be expensive. Once you’ve managed to pay for both of these it seems you’re slapped with hefty book costs. Unfortunately, many grants, scholarships, and loans don’t cover this additional expenditure.

College books are expensive, some topping $200 or more apiece and some yearly bills rising to over $1,000. The reasons for the high cost-per-book are varied, but there are ways to make your final book and materials bill more manageable.

One Man’s Trash

Buying used college books is one solution. Campus bookstores cater to the cost-cutters, and many feature large displays of used books in use for the current semester.

You can save between 20% and 30%, depending on the store. Look around for other bookstores around campus or town. Sometimes an unofficial college bookstore four blocks from campus can yield better savings on used books.


Libraries have saved more than one student a bundle of cash. As soon as a course’s recommended books list is published, call or view online every library in your area and reserve a copy as soon as possible. Librarians are excellent book scouts — they will be able to help you navigate the often complicated inter-library loan systems to help you locate the book you need, and they love doing it. Don’t be shy about asking them for help if you discover your local system doesn’t have the book. Libraries all over the US are networked, and if the book doesn’t show in your area, a good librarian can loan it from a different system for you. Librarians love a good challenge. Let them help!

Click It

Better bargains for both new and used books sometimes come from listings on websites such as Craig’s List or Campusbooks.com. There’s also regular online bookstores like Amazon or BooksAMillion. Before buying, be sure you have the current recommended version of the book the course instructor has listed.

Borrow, Baby, Borrow!

Borrowing a book from someone who just finished the course is a great idea, although it comes with a few caveats. First, the original purchaser may not want you to mark the book up with your own notes, since they’re probably going to want to resell the book later. Be aware that sometimes the word “borrow” really means “rent,” and be prepared to offer them a percentage of the book’s original cost.

Borrowing from a current student of the course can be a sticky wicket. It’s a clear fact that you’re both going to want the book at the same time to prepare for tests and exams. It’s not a good solution, overall, and you should avoid it if you can.


To summarize, learn to love a bargain. Be innovative in searching out sites and shops which can help you find the best deals on books, and don’t be afraid to ask librarians and students for help.

If you’ve found a site or method that works for you, let us know it the comments! We’re in the business of helping you get a clear picture of what kinds of commitments your degree will demand, and this includes giving you information on the best ways to manage the financial aspect.