Looking for the lowest prices on textbooks?

Price comparison sites may help you get a better deal

Published: August 13, 2015 03:00 PM

Many students head to college every fall distraught over how much they will have to pay for textbooks and supplies. The College Board estimates that students attending a four-year public college will have to spend an average of $1,200 annually. That's because an accounting textbook can easily cost $270. A human anatomy and physiology textbook can cost well over $200.

The burden is so great that according to a 2014 survey conducted by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 65% of students opted out of buying a textbook and most of them then worried about how that decision would affect their grade. 

There may be a better way. A number of textbook price comparison tools now exist on the Web that allow students to find textbooks at much more reasonable prices. These tools can help you find the best price on the textbook that fits your needs, whether a used, new, rental, or e-textbook. Keep in mind that these sites do not sell you the textbook directly—they provide you with links that redirect you to the seller of your choosing.

Here are three sites that you could consider using:

For more ways to spend less on school supplies, read "Ways to Save With Student Discounts" and "Save When Shopping Online for Dorm Supplies."


Key Features:
  • Booksprice allows users to search up to 10 International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) at the same time. This is the numeric code assigned to identify book titles.
  • The site lets you compare prices of over 50 vendors. Be sure to check out Booksprice's full list of stores that is included in the price comparison. 
  • Booksprice's Multiple Book Comparison allows for users to find the best overall price among several books. Users can find the best price on combinations of multiple new books, multiple new and used books, or by searching for the store that will give you the lowest price on your total purchase. 
  • The site will also tell you the estimated shipping price for your purchase

    There are some drawbacks, though.  A warning on the bottom of the price comparison rates reads, "It is not technically possible for the prices displayed above to be updated in real-time." That means that prices shown may not reflect the current price.

    Another drawback is that some stores may be excluded from price comparison searches. This may be because Booksprice is not able to search in that store, the website of the store is not working, or there is Internet network congestion, among many other possible reasons.


Key Features:

  • Textsurf allows users to subscribe to a mailing list in order to receive textbook saving reminders.
  • The number of retailers included in the price comparison are not specifically stated on the website but when we searched for five books, each one showed prices at six vendors: Amazon, AbeBooks, ValoreBooks, Chegg, BookRenter, and RedShelf
  • Textsurf provides visitors with a few "Saving Tips."


Key Features:

  • The number of retailers CheapestTextbooks included in the price comparisons are not specifically stated on the website. However, as I searched for the five textbooks, I noticed that a little over 10 different retailers were included. Among these retailers were Amazon, Chegg, and Ebay. Like Textsurf, CheapestTextbooks did not include Barnes and Noble in the comparison.
  • The estimated shipping is shown on CheapestTextbooks.
  • When informing users of the prices, CheapestTextbooks gives users the time span of when the price was last checked. For example, when I checked the pricing for "Rules for Writers", CheapestTextbook showed the price as $36.05 since 19 hours ago for one retailer and $30.98 since one second ago for another retailer. 
  • CheapestTextbooks provides users with information on "Coupons and Deals" from various retailers.

Bottom Line: Textbook price comparison sites may help you in your search to find the best textbook price for your budget. But the results can vary greatly depending on which tool you use, how many stores they search and how frequently they update their book prices.  

–Marcy Robles

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