University books: saving money

University books reading list

By Lois Looker,

Before starting university you’ll no doubt be given a long list of books from your reading list to buy, maybe even lab coats and goggles to add to the list as well depending on what you’re studying. Next week I’ll look at other expenses if you’re living away from home, but this week is about saving money on your university books.

If you’ve been given a hefty list of books to buy for your reading list or just a couple of very expensive textbooks, you’ll want to get the best deal you can. Don’t go straight to a bookshop and purchase them in one go. Spend a day or two looking at a few different options, or they can be very expensive!

Second hand university books

There are several places you can look for these – and don’t let the idea someone else has used them put you off. They are ultimately the same product for a fraction of the cost. Amazon marketplace sells these, eBay is an obvious place to look, and once you’ve started and have books to trade, The Book Pond is a great company who lets you exchange university books for no charge.

Amazon and the like

Your first option is to check deals out on Amazon or other useful dealer websites. When you search for the book you should look at the ‘used’ section and see what the prices are there. Quite often you can get a book or textbook with a large discount simply because it’s second-hand. However, you should always be aware of how much the postage and packaging will be as sometimes it’s then just as cheap to buy a brand new copy straight from Amazon with free postage. The little pennies always add up!


The specialist academic bookstore isn't always the cheapest, but Blackwell has a handy online tool where you just select your uni and course and it will show you the books on your reading list.

Campus book shops

Commonly there is a bookshop situated within your university campus which will supply the majority of books which students will need for that semester. The staff are normally very friendly and are trained to help students get the best deals that they can on their books. Bookshops like this are also very aware of their competition and so will try and match Amazon’s prices or be slightly cheaper. Just as with Amazon, they often also have a second-hand section where you can pick up used books at a discounted price. This is also better than buying online because you can actually see the condition of the book before you buy.

Charity shops

Your third option is to go to local charity shops. Oxfam Books if great for finding books that are in good condition with quite a bit knocked off the RRP and you’re also giving your money to charity – a win/win!


Worth a look. They are sometimes cheaper, sometimes not. The decision you may need to weigh up is if the cost saving is worth not being able to trade them in down the line. If you’re going down this path, eBookshoppe is a good place to start.

Where have you found the best place to buy your university books?