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Textbook Savvy

Learn ways to save money on course textbooks and materials

Textbook Tips

This guide shares tips for saving money on your class textbooks. 

Does the library have my textbook?
  • Most times, no
Why not?
  • The library has limited money to buy books and we need to buy academic books on new scholarship - these are different than textbooks
  • One copy of the textbook would immediately be checked out by the first person to see it, leaving the rest of the class without access
  • Starting in Fall 2023 Semester. when we know a book we have in our collection is being used that semester as a course text, we put it on Permanent Reserve so that everyone can use it in the library for 2 hours at a time
  • Sometimes we may have an older edition of a textbook on the shelves to check out
  • Sometimes the Grand Forks Public has copies of books (literature, popular psychology, business - NOT textbooks)
  • The instructor may put a copy of the textbook on reserve so that all students in the class could access it
  • The instructor may chose to use Open Educational Resources instead of textbooks

Note: you cannot use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) to obtain a textbook.

If you would like further assistance, please feel free to Ask Us.

What Can You Do to Control Textbook Costs?

Shop Early

  • Textbook list and course materials can be found on the bookstore textbook search
  • Review the ISBN, title, edition, author, and picture if available
  • Understand the return policies and save your receipt in case you need to return the textbook
  • Pay attention to the options available
    • Rental
    • Digital or e-textbook
    • Hard copy
    • Access card or web access – pay attention to the policy for web access

Online Shopping Strategies

  • Find the publisher for your textbook- see if older, cheaper editions are available and ask your instructor if an older edition is acceptable
  • View other websites to compare the cost of textbooks such as thriftbooks, Amazon and eBay textbooks
  • Find out if you have to pay for return shipping to return the textbook
  • Textbook and course material formats
    • Rentals – pay attention to what is or is not included
    • Kindle app – can be used on iPads too
    • Digital formats – pay attention to what is or is not included

Rent Your Textbook offers a one-stop shopping site for books – just type in the ISBN and the site will return a list of rental and purchase options for you to compare.


Not all textbooks have electronic versions 

  • Review the software requirements before buying or renting electronically
  • E-texts might not include companion materials or access codes
  • E-textbooks may be purchased or rented, but usually restrict the number of devices on which they may be used, as well as copy and print limits
  • If you drop a class and no longer need the e-book, you may be able to get a refund within the first week of classes if you have not already downloaded the book or used the access code

Other Tips

  • Go to the first day of class and make sure the instructor is using all of the textbooks
  • Ask your instructor to place a copy of the textbook on reserve at the library
  • Encourage your instructor to use open educational resources
  • If possible, share books with classmates

Can I Donate My Textbooks?

Where Can I Donate My Textbooks When Finished With Them?

Unfortunately the library can't accept donations of old textbooks, but there are some websites where you can check to see if they will take your books:

If you can't sell them, you could recycle them if you take off the hard covers and just deposit the pages in a paper recycling bin. This can take a bit of effort but at least you avoid the landfill.