College Textbooks: Too Expensive?

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Obviously, this is an opinion piece where it depends on what you consider expensive. However, we don’t think it’s unfair to say that, in general, college textbooks have become an unnecessary burden on thousands of families across the country.

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Some “textbooks”, which are usually just novels or workbooks, can be as cheap as $12 or as expensive as $50. However, if every textbook was in that price range, we would not be writing this blog post. Nowadays, we see college textbooks reach prices of $300 or more! FOR ONE BOOK! Granted, these books usually come with an access code to some other learning program, such as an online simulation game, but that still should not warrant such a large price tag.

One of the biggest problems with college textbooks is that with the addition of technology in buying textbooks, in the form of online access codes, so on and so forth, the student must purchase the specific textbook that the school has required. Now, this may not sound unfair at first, but, let’s think about it.

Without the addition of these online access codes, which are one time use by the way, the student would not have to purchase the exact edition that is “required” of them. In fact, they could potentially purchase the edition prior to the one that is “required”, which sometimes is hundreds of dollars cheaper. And for what? An access code and some new pictures and possibly one new paragraph in the entire textbook? That just seems a little bit ridiculous.

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At this point, we’d like to say that we, in no way, shape, or form condone the illegal downloading of textbooks. 

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However, there are definitely ways to get around paying full price for your textbooks.

Scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships out there that can definitely help you pay for school and pay for your books. Take a look at our August Scholarships and September Scholarships blog posts. We post a new blog every month with scholarships that could help save you money!

Nothing is certain, but the most painless way that we’ve found is simply by asking the professors if the current textbook edition is absolutely necessary for their class. Responses vary, but many professors are very understanding of different financial situations going on at colleges and universities. Therefore, you may get lucky and find out that you can use the previous edition of the textbook.

You should always wait until at least after the first class to find out if the textbook is absolutely necessary in the first place. There have been times when we paid $280 for a textbook, and we barely even used it during the semester. A complete waste of money!

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Thus, wait to talk to the professor, either via email or in person, go onto to find out about the necessity of their textbook, or go onto your school’s class’s Facebook page and post to see if anyone has had the class before so that they could give you better insight. In our case, it would be the Stony Brook University Class of 2017 Facebook page. Note: When the professor tells you that you NEED the book for the first day of class, it’s best to listen to their direction.

You can always rent the textbook as well, either from or from the bookstore. However, if there’s an access code with the book, then be careful! Renting from will most likely not give you the access code, and you will have to purchase the access code separately.

Thus, another option is to only buy the access code without the physical textbook. This usually saves some money (though not much) because the access code and online learning program usually has an electronic version of the textbook already in it. However, if you absolutely need a physical copy of the book, you could potentially go directly to the publisher and find it cheaper than if you were purchase the university’s edition of the very same book. The only difference is that the university put their logo on the book.

If you do not need an access code, then you have a few more options, one of which was already mentioned (getting a previous edition of the textbook). One of the oldest options that I can remember is simply asking your siblings, friends, or someone in your class’s Facebook page (as already mentioned) for the book. You might still have to pay for it, (if it’s from a friend or from the Facebook page) but at least you’re not paying full price.

If you really cannot afford to buy anything more, and you don’t need an access code, then most professors usually put a couple copies of their textbook on hold in the school’s library. It may be inconvenient at times, but you wouldn’t have to pay for the book at all.

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College textbooks are extremely expensive and with colleges increasing their costs every year, it becomes more and more difficult to afford everything to go to school, to learn properly, and to have fun. Hopefully this trend dies soon, but, unfortunately, there’s no end in sight.

In the meantime, reread this post and find out which option is best for you! There’s no right or wrong answer. See what you can afford and make a list of the books you need and gauge how much it is going to cost in total.

Let us know what you think, what worked/didn’t work for you, and stay SAVVY!

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