Tips to Save Money on Textbooks

Textbooks suck.

Seriously. Paying for them is painful. Reading them is mind numbingly boring most of the time. And when you go to sell them back, it is insulting. Graduate school in SLP is already expensive enough with our special course fees for clinic, general tuition, and then paying for transportation to all of your clinical sites. 

To help ease the suffering in a small way, I’ve come up with some tips that might help with the financial burden of textbooks. I have some ideas about how to make the reading part less painful and more educational, but I will cover that in a second post.

I try to go beyond the basics of “buy used” and “shop around,” because I am assuming you already know all of those things. And I don’t really recommend rentals from online sources because they can charge astronomical late return fees. 

So, here you have it – my quick and dirty tips to save money on textbooks….

1. Start searching early

Find out what textbooks you’ll be using early. This will help you with the following steps (especially #2). I usually email professors about textbooks way before the bookstore makes any information available. For Fall, I probably ask around May or June. And for Spring, I usually ask in December. If you send a short email, “Dr. ___, I was wondering what the required texts are for _____ class next semester,” you’ll probably get a quick response.

2. Check the library

Often times your library will have a copy of the textbook you need. You probably can’t get all of the books there, but I’m usually able to find at least one per semester. Sometimes they’re an older edition (see #7), but depending on the class that might be okay!

You really want to start early because someone else might reserve it!

Also, most university libraries engage in an interlibrary loan program. So even if your university doesn’t have the book, they might be able to borrow it from another campus. Be sure to check with the librarian before putting in the order though, certain universities don’t loan textbooks because they keep them for their own students.

3. Split it With a Friend

If you know you’re going to be in the class with a friend, consider splitting the cost. This is an especially good idea if you just need the book for review activities; you can just snap pictures of the parts you need!

4. Google It

If you’re really lucky, you might able to find a digital copy of the book. It can take a bit of looking around, but try searching the title of the book plus “pdf.” Be weary of website phising and scamming. You have to be careful when clicking on any download links. Also, I’d like to say I’m not endorsing using illegal copies… because that would be illegal.

5. Borrow It

I have a friend who is a year ahead of me, and she has lent me several books. Just one of the lent books saved me $80!

6. Do you even need it?

I was pretty upset with one professor who required a $120 textbook (used mind you!) for her class. The entire semester we never used the book, and I passed the class with a high A. That is irresponsible in my opinion. BUT the moral of the story is, find out if you even need the book! Don’t ask the professor, because they might be offended. It is better to ask people who have just finished the course, “How often did you use the book?” or “Could you have got by without the book?” and see what they say.

7. Old Edition

Using an older edition might save you so much money. This might not be the best idea with certain classes though. For example, anything neuro based is probably pretty rapidly (and dramatically) outdated. Other subject areas are not nearly as volatile (like phonology or anatomy for example).

If you ask the professor, he/she might say that using an old edition is “at your risk.” Personally, I haven’t had any issues using old editions.


I am not naive enough to think you’re going to get all your textbooks for free with these few tips. But if you are able to save on even one textbook, that could be anywhere between $50 and $200. That really adds up if you’re able to do it once per semester.

If you know of any other great ways to save on textbooks, please share!


Background in cover image courtesy of Freepik
Library image courtesy of
Thinking Image courtesy of Freepik

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