Many students forgo trips to the bookstore to buy their textbooks, preferring instead to pursue other outlets.

Credit: Antoni Gierczak

When textbooks get expensive, money-savvy students turn to alternative ways to buy them.

By buying used books or renting them, Engineering junior Daniel McCann said he manages to spend as little as $150 per semester.

College sophomore Belinda Liu typically buys her textbooks from Amazon, a popular option for buying and renting books inexpensively. But she has a list of options she will go through if prices still prove too high.

“If they’re exorbitantly expensive [to buy used], I rent them on Amazon. If they’re exorbitantly expensive as a rental, then I try to find a PDF online,” she said.

Students can also find deals at the Penn Bookstore, which is a go-to place for students looking to buy textbooks quickly or conveniently.

Wharton junior Grace Kirkpatrick said she buys books used or rents them from the Penn Bookstore, or buys directly from peers using Penn Book Bazaar — where she once got online versions of two finance and accounting textbooks for $10. She also sometimes splits costs with friends in the same class, or pursues e-books when other methods fall through. But she still spends about $400-500 on books per semester.

There are also groups in the University of Pennsylvania Facebook network such as “Textbook Exchange” and “Free and For Sale,” where students can buy and sell books and other materials.

Nursing junior Diana Cardenas said she used to frequent the “Free and For Sale” group for textbooks in her freshman year, but now she needs to hold on to some of her textbooks for her nursing major.

Buying used textbooks can easily cut costs in half when students are willing to compromise on annotations or dog-eared pages. Liu once bought two used math books for 90 percent off, at a total price tag of $10.

If textbooks are rented, the savings pile up even higher. Cardenas said she once rented $80 textbooks for $20.

Kirkpatrick and Liu spend time finding good deals at the beginning of the semester, but they don’t bother trying to resell the books when the class is over. Kirkpatrick said that it’s hard to get close to breaking even, so she just doesn’t bother selling. Liu doesn’t sell her textbooks out of preference, describing herself as “a hoarder” who keeps all her books even if she never opens them again.

However, some students do resell. McCann usually sells his books back to the Penn Bookstore. After College sophomore Ritwik Bhatia is done with his textbooks, he gives them to his father to sell on Amazon. Cardenas resells and said she’s actually gone into the black before, turning around a 20 percent profit per book.

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