The 9 Best College Textbook Websites: New, Used, and Rentals

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You’re all set with your college student’s dorm supplies, dorm decorations, and meal plan. Now, it’s time to think about one of the most important parts of their university journey: their textbooks for class! (That’s kind of the whole reason they’re in college, after all.) We found the best college textbook websites to make stocking up on essential reading material easier.

College textbooks are famously (and inexplicably) expensive. And if you’re looking for a good deal, the campus bookstore probably isn’t the best place to find it. But we’ve done the research on the best college textbook websites—from Chegg to Amazon to Barnes & Noble—whether you’re looking for rentals, ebooks, or resales. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through links on the G&F site, we may earn a commission.

The Best Places to Shop for College Textbooks

1. Chegg

Best college textbook websites: Chegg
Credit: Chegg

Buys Textbooks?: Yes (through a partner)

Return Policy: Within 21 days for physical books; 10 days for ebooks

Shipping: 1-10 business days, free shipping on orders $35+

Chegg is kind of the spot for cheap college textbooks. It sells pretty much every textbook that a university or community college student might need, and is one of the few retailers on this list that reliably offers etextbooks in addition to physical textbook purchases and rentals. Many of the textbooks it sells are listed at a whopping 90% discount from their retail price—a great way to save on something that may or may not be used all that much, depending on the whims of the professor. 

Chegg also offers a subscription-based study service for $15.95/month that provides step-by-step answers for homework questions, exam prep, and breakdowns for tough concepts. 

Popular Textbooks at Chegg: 

2. Barnes & Noble

Best college textbook websites: Barnes & Noble
Credit: Barnes & Noble

Buys Textbooks?: Yes

Return Policy: Yes, within 21 days of order date

Shipping: Within 3-6 business days, free for all purchases over $40

Barnes & Noble isn’t just a place to browse novels and sip coffee. It’s also a great place to buy textbooks! The retailer sells new and used textbooks and allows rentals on some titles (only ones that can be “reused,” according to the retailer). You can also sell books back at the end of the semester by typing their ISBN numbers into its portal and getting a quote. 

On the whole, prices aren’t quite as low as some other sellers, so it isn’t the cheapest college textbooks website. Still, it’s a great option if you want to buy textbooks from a name you recognize. Depending on where you live, you may be able to pick up your order in stores, too. 

Popular Textbooks at Barnes & Noble: 

3. Amazon

Best college textbook websites: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

Buys Textbooks?: No

Return Policy: Yes, within 30 days of receipt

Shipping: Within 1-5 business days, free for orders over $25 and all Prime orders

Another household-name retailer that offers textbooks (with free Prime shipping to boot)? You guessed it—Amazon. Shop popular textbooks in all categories, from business to computer science to law, as you’re stocking up on twin XL sheets, shower shoes, and other dorm room necessities. Many textbooks are offered at Amazon’s characteristically low prices—and you can even get some ebook titles delivered to your Kindle. 

One thing to note is that, as of April 1, 2023, Amazon no longer offers textbook rentals or buybacks. This means it’s best to use Amazon to buy books you’re planning to keep (or can sell in the campus bookstore or on Facebook Marketplace when the semester ends). 

Popular Textbooks at Amazon: 

4. eCampus

Best college textbook websites:

Buys Textbooks?: Yes

Return Policy: Yes, within 21 days of order date

Shipping: Within 3-7 business days, free for orders over $35

eCampus claims to be the #1 textbook rental service—and it has a few standout features that show why. The retailer offers a price match guarantee against Amazon and Chegg, so you can get a refund if you order a textbook and see it offered for a lower price at one of those places. Keep in mind though that refund requests must be submitted within seven days of your order, so you’ll have to stay on top of it if you’d like to get your money back! Plus, reviewers say items ship fast and arrive in great shape.

5. ThriftBooks

Credit: Thriftbooks

Buys Textbooks?: Yes

Return Policy: 30 days after delivery

Shipping: Free standard shipping over $15

Thriftbooks is the world’s largest online independent used bookseller, and you can also use it to find used textbooks. Just search the title you’re looking for and see if there’s a match out there for you—it’s much easier than scouring the categories, which sometimes feature books that don’t match the category. While this isn’t a great option for those who need the latest edition of a textbook, it’s helpful for getting cheaper copies of tried and true texts or even a novel needed for a literature seminar. Plus, you can sell back the textbooks to Thriftbooks at the end of the semester

Popular Textbooks at Thriftbooks: 

6. Knetbooks

Credit: Knetbooks

Buys Textbooks?: Yes

Return Policy: Yes, within 25 days of ship date

Shipping: Within 1-10 business days, free for all orders

Looking to rent textbooks? Knetbooks may be the ideal option. The site prioritizes rentals (though you can also purchase many titles) and has great discounts on all kinds of textbooks. It also boasts free shipping on all orders, flexible rental timelines—whether you’re looking for a quarter, semester, or a year—and the ability to change up your return date if you need a bit more time with your time. You’ll also get text message reminders when your deadline is coming up. 

One thing to note is that late fees can be expensive—they charge the full cost of the book (in addition to the rental fee you’ve already paid!) if it doesn’t arrive on its due date. 

7. Alibris

Credit: Alibris

Buys Textbook?: Yes

Return Policy: Yes, within 60 days of order ship date

Shipping: Within 1-10 business days, free for qualifying orders over $39

Alibris is a great source for all kinds of books—novels, cookbooks, children’s books, crafting books—but its bread and butter is textbooks. You’ll find new and used physical copies and ebooks for commonly assigned texts at deep discounts. Most books on the site are sold by third-party users, but Alibris allows you to filter offerings based on retailers that offer free or expedited shipping, sellers with good ratings, rare or signed books, and the book’s condition. 

Popular Textbooks at Alibris: 

8. College Books Direct

Credit: College Books Direct

Buys Textbook?: Yes

Return Policy: Yes, within 14 days of order

Shipping: Within 3-5 business days, $4 for the first book and $1 for every additional book

College Books Direct is one of the most established used textbook retailers out there, with more than 30 years in the biz. Its claim to fame? It only sells books it has in stock (that is, it doesn’t deal with third party retailers). This means that when you place an order, you can be sure that it’ll be fulfilled by College Books Direct. 

The site’s biggest drawback is that it doesn’t offer free shipping. It’s $4 for the first book and $1 for every additional title, which means it could add up quickly. Still, if you’re able to find a textbook you need at a great price—which, based on the listings we saw, is quite likely—you can still save by shopping there. 

9. Better World Books

Buys Textbook?: No

Return Policy: Free standard shipping over $15

Shipping: Free standard shipping on orders over $15

Not only can you buy new and used textbooks from Better World Books, but every purchase you make from the site helps to donate books to different non-profit organizations, including Books for Africa, Internet Archive, and Little Free Library. Searching is easy, and you can look up the author, title, or ISBN in the search bar to see what’s available. While you can’t sell your textbooks through the company, you can donate them to help support these initiatives.

Popular Textbooks at Better World Books: 

Why You Can Trust Us

I’m Sara Hendricks, and I’ve been working as an ecommerce journalist and editor for more than five years. You can find my work in Reviewed/USA Today, Refinery29, Insider, and more. I’m passionate about testing and reviewing all kinds of products, from fitness to fashion, and finding the very best deals across a wide range of categories—including college supplies!

To find the best college textbook websites, I worked with the Grown and Flown team—the ultimate experts in parenting teenagers and young adults—to align on qualities the best college textbook websites should have. These include the range of titles available, prices and discounts listed, whether or not free shipping is available, whether they offer new and used books, rentals, and/or ebooks, and whether or not you can pick up the textbooks in stores. I also dove into customer reviews and ratings on sites like Trustpilot to ensure that all retailers featured on this list are legit.

Everything to Know Before Buying College Textbooks

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Is It Better to Rent or Buy College Textbooks?

The decision to rent or buy your college textbooks depends on a few factors. The first one, of course, is cost — the upfront price of renting is often less expensive than buying textbooks, especially if they’re new. You can also try to buy used books to cut back on costs, though you may find unwanted markings and used books might not be available for newer editions. In addition to cost, you should also consider:

Will you need (or want) the book after the class is over? If you’re buying a textbook for a core requirement that doesn’t align with your long-term interests (like, say, an organic chemistry textbook when the plan is to major in econ), it’s probably safe to rent. But if the textbook is relevant to your goals—or may even be needed for a class in the future—you may be better off buying.

How likely is it that the book will be returned on time—and in good shape? Sure, renting is cheaper than buying. But that’s only true if you’re able to return the books on time with minimal wear and tear. Lose it, return it late, or accidentally rip off the front cover, and you may be paying some hefty fees in addition to the cost of the rental.

Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?

Many college textbooks come at eye-bogglingly expensive prices. There are a few reasons for this. The big one is that there’s limited market competition for textbooks. Most are produced by four publishers—McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley, and Cengage—which is close enough to a monopoly that they can kind of charge whatever they want.

Another reason is that lots of textbooks are “bundled” with supplemental material that can only be accessed online via a specific (sometimes one-time-use) code. This means that some textbooks have to be purchased new every time and cannot be rented or resold.

Are eBooks Cheaper Than Textbooks? 

eBooks are often cheaper than physical textbooks—sometimes up to 40-50% less. This means they’re a great option if you want to save money, especially if you already have an e-reader or iPad that makes accessing the books easier. You also receive the textbooks immediately after purchasing them (rather than waiting for them to ship), which is another plus. However, some students prefer using a physical book to take notes or highlight. Having to use a laptop to access textbooks may require an internet connection and a power source—and tends to come with more distractions than a’ paper-and-cardboard textbook. 

Are There Websites for Free College Textbooks?

Depending on the textbook you’re looking for, you may be able to access it for free. There are plenty of (perfectly legal) sites that provide digital copies of thousands of titles at no cost. 

These include:

However, these sites come with a few downsides. One is that they don’t usually have new titles, so if you’re assigned a brand-new book—or new edition of a book—it may not be available. And if the book you’re assigned requires an access code to use it, you’ll be out of luck, too.  

What Should You Do with Old College Textbooks? 

Many students end up selling their used college textbooks. You may be able to do this at your campus bookstore, and we’ve noted which of the sites we recommend offer resale options. You may be able to donate your books, too. Check with your local library, thrift store, community center, or other organizations to see where they’re needed most.  

Prices were accurate at time of publication.

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