How to Purchase Books Online for Less
Looking to save money on books or your college textbooks? Here are some useful resources and tips that can help you grab the best deal on any book that you want to read.
1. Online Bookstores That Offer Books for Less
Amazon.com – The largest bookstore on the Internet has been around for 15 years but they still excel at their original mission. Amazon.com often has the best prices to offer on most books, and they carry a wider range of books than most other online bookstores as well. Amazon.com offers free shipping for most items inside the US on orders over $25, but the best part is that they ship books worldwide (including India).
Half.com – If you’re looking to buy used books, eBay owned Half.com usually has the best prices. Books can be shipped anywhere inside the United States, though expedited shipping is not available on all books. Unlike Amazon, Half.com won’t ship books to international locations. Anyone can resell their used or new books on Half.com, and these are listed in order of their condition.
eBay Books – An auction may not seem like the most typical way to purchase books online but it may sometimes be the cheapest. Also, if you are looking for an out of print or rare book, eBay may be the only place where you can find it.
eBay has a special page set up for finding books, and you can always search for a book by title, author, or ISBN. However, since all listings are entirely written by the sellers, it is often hard to find the exact title you are looking for. Some eBay sellers ship internationally, while others won’t; if you need a book shipped outside the US, you may directly ask the seller to know if they would be willing to do so.
Barnes And Noble – One of the oldest, largest, and best known bookstores in America, Barnes and Noble also has a sizable online bookstore. Although their prices are often higher than Amazon.com, they do offer a $25/year membership that will take between 10% and 40% off of the price of most items. Barnes and Noble offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more, and will also ship internationally.
Biblio.com – Biblio specializes in used books as well as rare and out-of-print books. It can also be a great resource buy older editions of books (as they cost less) as well as international editions of textbooks that are produced for overseas markets and are therefore sold at a much lesser price. From their site:
Most international editions may bear a label that says something to the effect of “Not for sale in the U.S. or Canada”. This is because the publisher has printed the books to be sold overseas. There is nothing illegal, however, in purchasing international edition books from sellers overseas.
AbeBooks – Another online bookstore that carries many older and out-of-print collectible books is AbeBooks. They offer new and used books in most categories. Like Biblio, AbeBooks also sells international and review editions of textbooks, which are often much cheaper than the standard textbooks.
Book Depository - The reason why you may want to buy books from The Book Depository is because they offer “free worldwide delivery” (though their definition of “world” doesn’t include all countries).
2. Comparison Shopping for Books
To find the best deal on a book, or any item for that matter, it is often a good idea to compare prices across multiple stores. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this manually as there are some good comparison shopping engines that can fetch prices of books from multiple stores in a go.
Bing Shopping – Microsoft’s newly revamped Bing search engine is great for comparison shopping. You can simply search for the ISBN or title of a book, and it will search across numerous online stores for the cheapest price. Bing will show you if the shipping if free or not, and even offers Cashback discounts on purchases from select retailers.
Google Books – If a book you wish to purchase is listed on Google Books, you can easily compare the price of the print version of that book across multiple stores using Google Books. If the service is unable to fetch the price a title, it will at least display a list of online stores (and libraries) from where you can buy that book.
WeCompareBooks – Although it is primarily a textbook price comparison engine designed for college students, it can still help you find the cheapest price for most books in any category. “We Compare Books” will show prices for used and new books, and also the shipping costs from multiple book stores.
PriceGrabber Books – PriceGrabber, a popular comparison shopping site, has a dedicated section for comparing the price of books as well as print magazines. You can enter your zip code to calculate the tax and exact shipping charges right in the comparison search results.
Book Butler - With Book Butler, you can compare the price (and availability) of a book across 101 online bookstores but the best part is that you can limit your searches to stores that only ship to your country and also see the price in your local currency. Book Butler currently supports US, Canada, South Africa and most European nations.
3. Coupon Sites for Online Bookstores
Now that you decided the store from where you want to purchase that book, how about using a discount coupon code at the checkout stage to further reduce the price? Here are some of the best coupon sites that can help in your quest for cheaper books:
RetailMeNot – Simply enter the name of the store or website where you are shopping from, and try out the coupons listed. The ones listed the top of the page are most likely to work, so try them first.
FatWallet – Fatwallet.com, a great site for discovering online deals, not only provides coupons codes for most online stores but has its own cashback system as well.
Coupon Cabin – The majority of the coupons listed on Coupon Cabin are verified and guaranteed to work, but they do list user-submitted coupons and promo code that may or may not work.
Coupon Mountain – You can use Coupon Mountain to find coupons for specific stores or even for specific products. In addition to user-submitted promo-codes, Coupon Mountain also has list of special coupons that offer free shipping.
4. Read Books Online with Digital Libraries
Millions of books are now available for free or subscription-based reading online through many different services. These can often save you much off the standard purchase price of the book if you simply want to read the title once.
4.1 Sites with free books
Google Books – This can be useful even if you already own a book, as you can use the power of Google search to find specific text in the book provided the book is listed in Google Books.
Project Gutenberg – Over 30,000 out-of-copyright books are available here that you may read online for free or download them in EPUB and read them across devices. If you are looking for a book that was originally printed over 75 years ago, you may well find that title here.
Your local library – If you have a membership at your local public library, be sure to check their website as some of them do offer digital books for online reading.
4.2 Subscription based eBook Libraries
Questia – Questia can be a very useful online resource for readers and researchers. Over 70,000 books and millions of journals are available online for reading, and you can also print pages for free. All books /articles on Questia have been assigned categories and you can pay a $10 monthly subscription fee to read books in any one category, or go for a $19.95/month subscription for access to all books on the Questia site.
Safari Books – If you are looking for books related to computer and technology, Safari Books may be an ideal service for you. You can read thousands of books online from Microsoft Press, O’Reilly Media, Wiley, Peachpit, Adobe Press and most other publishers in the tech space. You also get 5 download tokens with your monthly subscription that will let you download individual chapters or whole books as PDFs for offline reading.
5. Rent Textbooks for College
College textbooks are expensive, and it can be difficult to resell them for a decent price as new editions often come out every year or two.
Renting textbooks for the length of the semester therefore enables you to spend less on the book without having to search multiple bookstores (for the best price) and you don’t have to worry about reselling your textbooks when the semester ends. Here are some great places from where you can rent textbooks:
Chegg.com – With Chegg, you can easily rent textbooks for a period of 60 days, a quarter, or a full semester. This saves you money as you only need to rent a book for for the length you need it. Shipping (both sides) is included in the rent though you will have to pay the original price of the book in case it gets lost or is damaged.
Chegg will ship textbooks only inside the United States. The good thing is that they’ll also plant a tree for every book you rent to showcase the environmental benefits of renting books, since less books are printed if more students use the same copy.
BookRenter.com – You can rent textbooks on BookRenter for periods ranging from 30 days to 125 days and the price also includes return shipping. If the book is majorly damaged or lost, you must pay the original purchase price for the book; if there is moderate damage, you must pay 35% of the list price of the book. Like Chegg, BookRenter will only ship inside the United States.
5.1 Tips for buying college textbooks
1. College textbooks are often updated annually, so older editions are usually available much cheaper than the current edition. Check with your university professor if an older edition of the book will work for your course.
2. Though you should always try online bookstores, some course materials including books and software may be cheaper at your college bookstore if your school has a special arrangement setup with the publisher.
3. When you are finished with a textbook, try selling it to recoup some of your costs. Other students in your college that will be taking the class may be interested in it, so advertise it around your school. Otherwise try to sell it online at Half.com or Amazon.com.
4. You should consider purchasing an international edition of a textbook as they can be much cheaper than the standard US price even after international shipping. You can find international editions of textbooks on sites like Biblio, AbeBooks and eBay but just make sure that you search for the title and author of the book instead of the ISBN number, as ISBN is often different for international editions.
Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion
Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.
Amit has developed several popular Google add-ons including Mail Merge for Gmail and Document Studio. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory