Skip to main content

While undergraduates’ Cost of Attendance (COA) often includes money for textbooks, rarely is our financial aid package enough to help defray the costs associated with textbooks. On average, a UNC Chapel Hill student spends $1,000 on textbooks annually.

The financial burden that comes with textbooks has led many of us to often skip buying textbooks that might have otherwise helped us understand and score better in a course, to afford our basic needs.

At times, it is the inverse and students would prefer cutting on their basic needs, such as food, to afford textbooks. If you or someone you know ever find yourselves in such a dilemma, consider going through our financial literacy and third-party resources and use these 6 rules to save big and textbooks:


6 Rules to Save Big on Textbooks


1. Confirm that the textbook is required

It is always best to go to class first before buying your textbooks because some professors end up not using textbooks listed on the syllabus but rather provide students with PDF versions of the required readings.

You may also consider reaching out to your professors before the first day of classes to avoid falling behind in your readings due to possible delays on your textbooks’ orders with the Student Stores or other third-party vendors.



2. Use Library Resources

If you would need to get a textbook for a particular course, before even thinking about buying a textbook, check its availability with the UNC Chapel Hill Libraries first. The libraries have course reserves for many course materials, which are accessible to any student during the semester for a period. While some books can be checked out of libraries, others are only utilizable indoors but students are allowed to make copies.

In the event, a textbook is not findable in none of the libraries on campus, you can always run a quick search through the Triangle Libraries, where you can request a textbook from neighboring institutions, such as Duke, NCSU, and NCCU.


3. Explore different websites












Do not limit yourself to the Student Stores! Look at third-party websites, where you can find affordable textbooks in good condition. Some of these websites are AbeBooks, Alibris, Amazon, Better World Books, Chegg, eBay, Thriftbooks,, and UNC Groupme and Facebook groups. You can also look at websites, such as BIGWORDS, which compare textbooks’ prices across different online platforms.

When you finally come across the best textbook option for you, be sure to confirm the edition and ISBN through the syllabus or with your professor, which may or may not be lenient on specifics, before hitting order!



4. Consider renting rather than buying














Buying is often much more expensive than renting a book for a period. Considering that, many of us rarely need textbooks after classes finish, it is recommended to rent used textbooks, which are more affordable and come at cheaper prices.

However, if you prefer to buy a textbook, you have the option to resell them at the end of the semester either through the Students Stores or third-party websites previously listed. This option is of great benefit as it keeps costs down and enables you to get some money to buy or rent new textbooks the following semester.


5. Partner with a buddy

Here is another great idea to lower textbooks’ expenses. You can have a financial partnership with a friend you trust or a reliable group of friends to buy a textbook and share it alternatively during the semester. This option is generally recommended and more efficient when you have more than one or two textbooks required during the semester.



6. Use digital resources


One step you can take towards limiting your textbooks’ expenses is to look into Open Educational Resources. These openly licensed and free educational materials can be a great ally on your academic journey. They are not for sale and if you ever see OERs being sold, report it immediately to us, UNC Chapel Hill Libraries or the Department of Education.

If you are unable to find a specific textbook after going through OERs, search for online PDFs, which are fairly cheaper than loose leafs and hardcovers.

Sometimes, professors may require the use of access codes in addition to textbooks. When that is the case, be reminded that access codes often come with an eBook version of the textbook and buying these codes directly through the provider’s website can save you more bucks than at the Students Stores.


If you have any questions regarding this or simply need assistance with implementing strategies to reduce textbooks’ expenses, do not hesitate to reach out to the Affordability Co-Chairs