Paying Less for College Books

Question: The price of college textbooks has really upped the cost of college. Besides buying used books, which are often marked all up, what other ways are there to find cheaper books? -- Too Expensive

Answer: At a four-year public college, students can expect to spend about $1,200 per year on books and materials according to the College Board. First of all, students don't need to buy all their books at the college bookstore. They can do an online search using the textbook's ISBN, which uniquely identifies it. They should visit such sites as, and to find good deals.

Another possibility is to rent books from online retailers or the college bookstore. And there is always the possibility of going electronic. Digital books typically cost much less and can be accessed on most devices. Plus, there are tools that allow you to highlight and take notes.

Students should also investigate the free textbooks that are available on Rice University's OpenStax College website at These books meet the scope and sequence requirements for most courses. They are free because philanthropic organizations have donated funds to OpenStax College.