Book Smarts: Finding Affordable Textbooks

By Jenna Jauregui: Digital Media Manager

Textbook buying time is here. No matter how much you resent spending your hard-earned summer dollars on books you will only use for one semester, it’s the reality of going to college.  Fortunately, there are many ways to duck around the high sticker prices and keep some cash in your pockets! Here are 10 easy ways to cut textbook costs.

  1. Shop early. Check the CSUSM bookstore website at or email your professors to get your list of required textbooks as early as possible.  This will give you more time to shop around and compare prices.
  2. Talk to students who have already taken your classes. Maybe you can use their old book. Check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for local connections.
  3. Use online price comparison sites. Once you have the ISBN identification number of your textbook, type it into websites like  They do the hard work for you, searching hundreds of online bookstores to find you the lowest price on your particular textbook.  According to their website, they have listings up to 97% off retail prices.
  4. Visit used bookstores. The CSUSM bookstore and Discount Campus Books are local options for used textbooks.  Search eBay,,, and other online marketplaces that specialize in used books.  Some may offer coupons or combined shipping options.
  5. Rent your textbooks. According to their website, the CSUSM bookstore has partnered with to offer book rentals at a minimal cost.  As an added environmental bonus, Chegg’s website says they will plant a tree for every book rented.
  6. Check your library. Today’s technology allows you to search the CSUSM library card catalog online at  Check your local library branch as well.  This option works well if your class requires mass-market books or classic literature.
  7. Form a textbook-sharing study group. Get to know your peers and save money by forming a study group.  You can all pitch in for a book, or meet at the library to use their non-circulating copy.
  8. Talk to your professors. They may be willing to work with you and provide you with alternative options if absolutely necessary.  Maybe you can use an older edition of their required text.
  9. Research textbook scholarships. The Cougar Shops Scholarship offers $500 each to 20 students who meet the award criteria.  The next opportunity to apply is in January.  Nursing students can apply for the Jeremy Pallon Memorial Nursing Scholarship, which can go towards textbook purchases.  For more info on these and similar scholarships, contact University Store manager Kathy Brown at (760) 750-4730, extension 4731.
  10. Sell your textbooks back. The CSUSM bookstore offers buyback options for both used and new books.  Students can receive up to 50% of the original retail price, depending on certain conditions.  Visit the bookstore for specific details. You can also sell your textbooks using numerous online sites like
The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos