Don’t Buy College Textbooks Anymore! Here’s Better Alternatives

Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by David Shaw

do i need to buy textbooks for college

If you’ve ever bought college textbooks and felt ripped off, then you’re definitely not alone. College textbooks are expensive and often can only be used for a year or so. With the convenience of electronic textbooks these days and free textbook resources, they are better options than buying physical college textbooks. But the question remains, do you really need to buy college textbooks in 2022?

Buying college textbooks now is not necessary anymore. There are many free or cheaper alternatives compared to buying new physical college textbooks on the internet nowadays unless professors use textbooks that are written by themselves.

There are a plethora of free or cheaper alternatives to begin with, yet people in the academic industry usually won’t share this with new students who didn’t know better about the truth. In this article, we will tell you all the reasons why you should stop buying college textbooks!

Textbooks Are Not Mandatory In College

If you haven’t already known, textbooks are not mandatory in college. Professors simply wouldn’t even care or even force you to buy textbooks as it is your responsibility to access textbook materials or homework problems. According to College Board, the average undergraduate is estimated to spend around $1,200 on textbooks and supplies during the 2019-2020 academic year. That’s equivalent to buying a new iPhone each year!

At college, the only practical use of textbooks for students is to access homework problems which is what professors usually want students to benefit from. Other than that, for the context and chapter explanations, your professor would do a good job at interpreting them in lectures otherwise.

– Email your instructor to inquire about the requirement for textbooks

Some professors explicitly made it known to their students that students wouldn’t necessarily need textbooks to do well in their class. As a friendly reminder, simply asking them through emails to check if you need to buy textbooks for the class, you might end up saving hundreds of dollars from just a simple email.

Nonetheless, think twice before you spend money on new, overpriced textbooks. Don’t let giant textbook publishers or your college representatives rip you off by buying overly priced textbooks for only short-term use.

Before Buying Textbooks, Consider Renting Instead

Before you break the bank from buying college textbooks, a better alternative is to rent them. With Amazon Rentals or services like Chegg, they make things easier for students to rent undergraduate class textbooks for the semester cheaply and conveniently. After you’re done renting the textbooks, you can also enjoy free return shipping at the end of the semester.

Take Calculus Textbooks on the market for example, here’s a table between the price you pay for buying physical books and renting them:

Type of Access Price Duration of use
Buying Hardcover Textbooks (Including Used) 80$ – 264$Varies
Buying Loose Leaf Textbooks (Including Used)50$ – 115$Varies
Renting Textbooks30$ 1 Semester
(6 Months)
*Prices are according to Amazon, might be subjected to change

As you can tell from the data table, renting textbooks instead of buying textbooks is obviously the cheapest option compared to buying them. Plus, you won’t have to go through the process of selling them away when it comes to clearing your shelves full of textbooks that are no longer useful to you in the future.

– Different Textbook Editions Probably Won’t Matter

Nonetheless, if you happen to find textbooks that are 2-4 editions older but significantly cheaper, don’t hesitate to buy them as there are likely no major changes in their content from the newest edition. These are just gimmicks and strategies these companies use to earn more money from students who don’t know better. College textbooks should be reasonably affordable or free, and they should stay that way.

When Should You Really Buy Physical Textbooks?

There can be certain cases where cheaper textbooks or e-textbook versions are not an option. When professor publishes their own workbook or textbooks for their particular class or syllabus, you usually have no choice but to spend the textbook dollars. Some professors publish their own paperback workbooks which contain original works of homework questions and lecture materials. And if they grade your work based on materials used in their textbooks, it simply leaves you with no choice but to buy them.

Although you should know they are usually cheaper than big publishers’ textbooks, they might only be used throughout the duration of the class. If you’re looking to buy these used textbooks published by professors, other students might likely sell them for a very cheap price.

Choose Electronic Over Physical Textbooks

electronic textbooks

Nowadays, electronic textbooks are only getting more convenient and easier to use. Other than that, the price for electronic textbooks can be easily up to 10 times cheaper than physical copies which last forever without having to worry about wear and tear.

Unlike buying or renting physical textbooks, E-textbooks are instantly accessible whenever you pay for them through the internet. Since you can access electronic textbooks basically anywhere on any device, choosing electronic textbooks over physical copies can also save you the effort to carry them around, while still letting you access them across your mobile phone, computers, or literally any device with a screen.

Type of Access Price Duration of use
Buying Hardcover Textbooks (Including Used) 80$ – 264$Varies
Buying Loose Leaf Textbooks (Including Used)50$ – 115$Varies
Renting Hardcover Textbooks 30$ From 6 Months
Buying E-Textbooks80$Lifetime
Renting E-Textbooks40$From 4 months
*Prices are according to Amazon, might be subjected to change

Personally, I always opt for electronic textbooks whenever they are available so I can readily excess them interchangeably on my phone or laptop while I’m in class or anywhere in public. Best of all, with the convenience of electronic textbooks, there is no effort to carry them around or have to worry about the responsibility of ownership. Once the digital license expiration date is near, you either renew it or simply end your license access without further charges.

Resources For Free Textbooks Online

We’re spilling the beans here, even if your college mentions or advocates low-cost textbooks, they are still many free ways you can access textbooks out there. When it comes to saving on textbooks, we know students want to spend as little as possible on textbooks, or better yet, FREE textbooks!

If you can get a free digital copy from your friend, you can access them with PDF file readers like Adobe Acrobat and many more. PDF software nowadays comes with its own cloud storage system, which means you can access them anywhere on any device throughout one account.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of free textbooks online for you to access on the internet depending on your preference.

  • OpenStax – Brought to the public by Rice University, OpenStax is an online website that publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks that are free and low-cost in print.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all the university of Massachusetts Institute Of Technology course content. OCW material content is open source and available to the world with ongoing updates and improvements.
  • Library Genesis – This is a peer-to-peer file-sharing library for scholarly journal articles, academic textbooks, general interest books, and audiobooks. The site enables free access to content that is otherwise paywalled or not digitized elsewhere. Although this method is the best source for free textbooks, you might be subjected to copyright or piracy issues.
  • Join Textbook Group Chats – Most universities create their own textbook groups to share files of textbooks for free. Look for them across platforms like Facebook or any Social Applications where students gather to share their textbook resources for free.

Related Questions

Will more college classes require textbooks? It entirely depends on the preference of college instructors whether they prefer students to be using textbooks or not. Although you should still expect most instructors to advocate the use of textbooks, students might not likely need textbooks for certain classes given the abundance of information taught in class or offered on the internet.

Can I use older textbook editions for a class? Using textbooks of older editions is usually ideal as there are no major changes to the content materials. If you compare newer and older textbooks’ editions, you will often notice they have more than 90 percent of similarity in their content.

Is downloading free Textbook PDF legal? Depending on the source from which you download textbooks, you might be subjected to copyright infringement for certain textbooks you download from the internet. However, in most cases, you will be free from any copyright issues.

Are Electronic Textbooks safe to use? E-Textbooks are not only safe to use, but also cheaper and more convenient compared to physical textbooks. Websites like Amazon, Chegg, and more that offer textbook rental services make sure the user experience is safe, easy, and secure from any technical difficulties or malware.

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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