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What You Need to Know Before Buying, Renting, Selling, or Using a Textbook

Did you know that in 2020, 25% of students indicated they worked extra hours to pay for their books and materials and 11% skipped meals in order to afford books and course materials?

At eCampus.com, we make it our mission to provide the exact course materials you need at the lowest possible price. To that end, here is what you need to know to pay the LEAST for your textbooks, while also getting the MOST from them.

How Much Are College Textbooks?

According to EducationData.org, the average cost for full-time, undergraduate students at a four-year university for books and supplies per year was approximately $1,240, with students spending the most (average of $1,420) at public two-year colleges compared to $1,220 per year at private four-year colleges (average of $450-$625 per semester).

Why are College Textbooks so Expensive?

Academic institutions typically adopt only a handful of materials as the most up-to-date and appropriate for given disciplines. This limits competition in the marketplace. Additionally, while discount textbook providers are more widespread, access codes are often required to make full use of the course materials.

So you might be able to get the book used, but you’ll need the access code (sold separately) to complete assignments!

For this reason, if your instructor requires you to purchase the book New, this is likely the reason. Never supplement a used book for a required new book, as used & rental materials almost never include access codes and other supplemental materials.

Buying College Textbooks

When to Buy Textbooks for College

Textbook prices begin to increase before the start of each semester (June & December). For this reason, students will get the best discounts if they purchase (or rent) their course materials as soon as your instructor has provided the list of required materials, which should include exact ISBNs and/or edition information.

When to Sell Used Textbooks

Textbook sellers are looking to purchase back used textbooks prior to the start of new semesters. However, since many students are likely selling the same adopted titles, it’s important that you sell your books as soon as you are finished with them. Once a seller has acquired their quota of used books, they may stop buying back some titles.

How Much Does a Textbook Weigh?

Most hardcover textbooks weigh between 2 and 6 pounds with an average weight of 4.5 pounds (2.1 kg). The heaviest textbooks are Law, Medical, and Science books.

eTextbooks, however, weigh exactly nothing!

How to Take Notes from a Textbook

Note Taking Apps

One of our favorite apps for note taking is Zoho Notebook. It’s also one of the most versatile. You can also check out our blog post on the top notetaking apps for college students in 2022.

How to Cite a Textbook

One of the most common citation styles is the American Psychological Association (APA format. It looks like this:

Author Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Year Published). Title of work. Publisher.

Example Citation:

Lee, H. (2002). To kill a mockingbird. HarperCollins.

How to Quote a Textbook in APA Format

Quoting a book in an academic essay would use what’s called an “in-text citation”. It looks like this:

Last Name, Year, “Quote”, Page Number

Example Citation:

According to Jones (1998), “students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time” (p. 199).

We wrote a whole blog post that goes into detail on different ways to cite a textbook in an essay.

Is a Textbook a Primary Source?

In most cases no. A textbook is not a primary source, but rather a secondary or tertiary source since the authors are usually interpreting theories or indexing information on the subject matter.

Most Trusted Textbook Sites


Going strictly off of public review platforms, we have to say, we have a lot of happy customers and have gone to great lengths to become the most trusted textbook site overall.


If you’re looking for rental textbooks specifically (which means you do NOT need supplemental material or access codes), then Knetbooks is by far the highest rated textbook rental site.

Is Textbooks.com Legit?

Textbooks.com does not typically have the best pricing, and their reputation on popular review platforms is quite poor (less than 2 stars). While they might be one of the more prominent sites out there, we cannot endorse them as a reputable textbook provider.

How to Find Cheap Textbooks

We can boil down this down to 5 steps:

  1. Shop early to get the best pricing overall.
  2. Determine if you need supplemental materials, or if you can use a Used or Rental book.
  3. A quick ISBN Lookup will help you find the exact book you need. An ISBN search is the quickest & most accurate way to make sure you get the correct copyright & edition.
  4. Visit our coupons page to get a working, instant-apply coupon code.
  5. Checkout & earn eWards for your course materials for next semester.
    1. Lastly, never try to pass a course without the required textbook!

      Visit eCampus.com to save up to 90% when you rent, buy used, or download etextbooks.