Save money on Textbooks

I’m currently in my last semester of my undergraduate engineering degree and I am baffled by the amount of students who fall for the oldest scam in the book: Purchasing their textbooks from the University Bookstore. Perhaps those individuals are simply shopping there for the convenience, or maybe it’s all going to mom and pops credit card – I don’t know, but here’s a guide to saving a significant amount of money on textbooks.

You’re reading this guide on how to save money when purchasing textbooks. I’m going to assume you have already learned that you will actually need the textbook as well as not being content with a digital copy.

Are you thinking you were going to blindly purchase a book, which would have cost you a significant amount of money, without actually knowing if it will be any use to you in your course? That book is destined to sit unopened on your bookshelf until you finish the class and return it for 15% of your initial investment. Have you spoken to other students who have already taken that class? Did they use their textbook? Did you email or visit the professor and politely asked if it is required?

Song of The Blog: Bookish by Library Voices

Perhaps the book is only going to be used for homework questions, in that case have you thought about downloading a cheaper e-book? Are you aware you can completely legally photocopy portions of books (up to 10%, might want to investigate that). Borrow the book from another student, or take out the one your professor has on reserve in the library and photocopy those homework questions. I prefer the illegal route to finding my textbooks (for homework questions) in pdf on torrent sites.

Right, so you NEED the physical copy of your textbook because you like having it, highlighting it, sticky-noting, the exam is open book, and/or you think osmosis might work this time.

Non-University Book Stores

Are you aware that you can buy textbooks at bookstores that are not your university bookstore? ALWAYS look at, and any other book retailer. My university bookstore doesn’t post the ISBN numbers on the online site, but it’s as easy as walking in and writing down the number.

Used Book Stores

Your student union/society might offer a used bookstore/trade at the beginning of the semester which is great if your textbooks are for popular classes. Alternatively there are hundreds of on-line used book sites. I have had success with’s buy “used” buttons, as well as indigo/chapters. A major used book website that I think everyone should use is It works the same way as Amazon’s used book site does, used book retailers can post their products they have for sale on the site. As a consumer you can see the “condition” of the book, price, where its located and most importantly the name of the retailer.


International Editions

Here’s a neat trick for engineering students! Something I was surprised to learn was that while publishers were selling expensive engineering textbooks to students in Canada, the USA and Europe at $150+, they were selling the same ones to students in the developing world for a fraction of the cost. Your new favourite textbook store is, where the shipping costs more than the book.

Comparing the international textbooks that I own to Canadian/American editions of my fellow students, two are in black in white instead of colour and the other is a paperback instead of hardcover. The content is virtually the same, but be aware it IS a different edition and the homework questions may be in a different order or different questions entirely.



  • Kyle Smyth

    However, at $1.50 per package, the University of Regina bookstore has a competitive price on pencil crayons.

  • Kyle Smyth

    However, at $1.50 per package, the University of Regina bookstore has a competitive price on pencil crayons.

  • Adamdove

    Wish I knew this earlier in my schooling. Thanks Kyle. I will be forwarding this around.