How to Get Free College Textbooks

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The cost of college textbooks can be surprising and frustrating to a student already burdened with high tuition costs and assorted college fees. The source for most college textbooks is the college bookstore, where students often find high-priced new textbooks and moderately-priced used books. There are still a few ways that college textbooks are available free of charge.

Things You'll Need

  • Library card
  • Visit your college's library at the beginning of the term, preferably a few days before the term begins. Bring a list of the textbooks required for your classes with author names and publication dates included.

  • Look on your library's catalog for the specific textbook titles that you need. Make sure to type the titles correctly and match author names and edition numbers.

  • Ask a librarian to confirm if the library owns the textbook. Sometimes academic libraries will have copies of textbooks for certain college courses. The copies of these books may circulate, meaning they can be checked out. Other copies may be available for in-library use only, meaning your instructor may have put a copy of your classes' text on reserve for your class to use in the library when needed.

  • Check to see if your school's library is a member of a lending consortium with other area colleges and universities. Many schools in the United States participate in such consortia, where materials are leant amongst institutions to increase the amount of items available to students. For example, in Ohio this consortium is called OhioLINK.

  • Ask a librarian to show you how to look up books at other area colleges through the lending consortium in your state. This service is often paid for through tuition money, so the books will be available to students at no extra cost. Items are shipped directly to your school's library and many schools allow students to check them out for several weeks at a time.

  • Renew borrowed textbooks when the due date occurs. If no one else has requested the same book, you may be able to use it for the entire term.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check the edition of the textbook that your instructor requires. There is sometimes a big difference in content between the first and subsequent editions of textbooks.
  • Always return your books when they're due to avoid fines and suspension of library privileges. Some colleges withhold student diplomas until all library fines are paid!

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