Ways to Get Free College Textbooks

Science Textbook for University Student
Science Textbook for University Student

One of the biggest expenses of college other than tuition is textbooks and required reading books. You can lessen the blow by going digital, buying used or renting.

College Can Be a Shock to the senses of many students. It can also be a shock to the wallet. Students can easily drop $200 on a single textbook – and that’s just one book for one class. Buying used instead of new can help students cut their book bills.

Renting instead of buying can help students save, too. Budget-savvy students can go a step further by scoring free textbooks.


Here Are Ways to Get Free College Textbooks


University library

Linguistics and comparative language and literature
University library

Sometimes the best place to start is the most obvious. University libraries house thousands of books. What they don’t have in-stock can often be requested via interlibrary loan agreements,

Professors often put the textbooks for their courses on reserve at the school’s library. These are typically available for short-term loans, sometimes as little as an hour or two, which gives students a chance to complete the assigned reading. The availability of these books is often limited, too, so plan.


Book swap

Girls are boosting boys reading Scores
Student swapping Book

Textbooks collect dust as soon as the semester ends. While you may tell yourself you will use that intermediate Spanish book again, you probably won’t. So why not let someone else use it?

Student organizations at schools such as Georgia College and the University of Florida set up online book exchanges. These sites allow undergrads to list books they have and books they need in hopes of finding a match.

If your campus doesn’t have a book exchange, start one. Book swaps only work if students participate, so enlist a student organization to put up flyers and make some noise during orientation.


Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg

The oldest digital library in the world offers more than 43,000 e-books, completely gratis. Comparative literature students taking Only Jane Austen at Binghamton University, for example, can find every book on their syllabus via Project Gutenberg.

Titles available on the site span categories such as archaeology, horticulture, microbiology and World War I. Copyrights are expired on all of the titles available for download via Project Gutenberg, so students studying history or classic literature may have more luck than those taking courses such as Hunger Games: Could it Happen to Us?



Reading ebook
Man reading an eBook.

Undergrads enrolled in that course about “The Hunger Games” can still get their books for free. Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library allows members to check out e-books for free. While students won’t find their Introduction to Chemistry book, they will find both popular and classic titles.

There is a catch, though. To use the Kindle library, students need to own the namesake e-reader. They also need to subscribe to Amazon Prime, which is $39 per year for college students.

Students may find PDFs of textbooks posted online, too, but downloading those copies can get them into murky copyright waters. And even so, searches may bear little fruit.