5 Simple Ways to Get Free College Textbooks

Free college textbooks: a great way to save money.

Did you know that you can get textbooks without spending a single dime?

That’s right: you can find openly-licensed textbooks online or get a free copy from your college.

Let me show you how it works.

Get free college textbooks online

I know that some of you will have a difficult time doing the above, especially if you’re working part-time to make ends meet. That’s I’ve also included ways to get a digital copy of your textbook without committing piracy.

1. Openly-licensed college textbooks

Here’s the deal: some websites provide you with top-quality openly-licensed college textbooks.

Granted that your professor may ask for a specific book, you can always inquire if you can use an alternative openly-licensed version of it published on any OER website (OER=Open Educational Resources).

Here is a list of the most popular OER websites where you can download college textbooks:

  • Bookboon – This website is one of the oldest OERs and has been around since 2005. It’s a massive library and gives you the option to explore over a thousand college textbooks for free! I strongly recommend this one if you’re only looking for a book and then focus on your studies.
  • OpenStax.org – Last on the list is the youngest of the three (established in 2011). Philanthropists such as Bill Gates back this organization and over 4,000 across the country use it. It’s quite the same as Bookboon but with a stronger emphasis on basic academic subjects such as Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Humanities, Sciences, etc. They have a vast collection of textbooks and other educational materials. The only caveat, however, is that not all of them are free.
  • OpenTextbookLibrary – This is another catalog of free and open-sourced textbooks.
  • IntechOpen – There are 2,000 free textbooks about computer science, robotics, and other STEM subjects.

2. Use social media and online forums

Other than those popular and trustworthy websites, you always have the option to use social media.

Explore Facebook groups in your university relevant to your study and reach out to people.

It’s a fun, easy, modern way to build connections with your colleagues. 

You may also join forums and seek a free textbook there.

Acquiring a tangible textbook

Let’s start with how to get a classic, old-fashioned textbook that you can touch. 

3. Scour around every library like Will Hunting

Let’s start with what most people ignore nowadays due to technology or just plain laziness — looking for your textbooks in school or public libraries. 

It’s super likely that your textbooks are available in the library. 

You only have to search for your books and borrow them first before anyone else. 

Yes, it’s extra work and responsibility, but it allows you to save thousands of dollars.

Your payment is just an extra hour or two of library errands every other week. How bad can that be?

4. Befriend your seniors

Other than your library, you can get your textbooks for free if you have good connections with your seniors. 

If you have decent social skills, ask higher-year students if they still have their textbooks lying around (or a legal digital copy of it, at least).

Then, politely ask for it.

Sure, if they have no plans giving them away, then you can try and negotiate by merely borrowing them instead.

The more active you are at building connections, the higher the chance of actually getting handy-down textbooks. 

What’s great about this strategy is that you can also give back to the community. 

You can do that by proactively looking for juniors who are also in need and passing your textbooks to them once you no longer require them. 

The willingness to participate in this practice is there, but because college students are super busy, it’s rare for this to happen. 

However, if you have the guts, you can surely dedicate your weekends looking for seniors that can help you out. 

5. Talk to your college professor or advisor before the start of the semester

College professors are busy, but they are sincere in helping students out. 

Approach them before the semester has even started, and they will likely endorse you to a university program that helps students get used textbooks from other students for free.

Most of these are inter-school programs, meaning that the books you’ll get may come from a different university. Thus, it takes a bit more time to set you up with a book donor. 

If you do this during the semester, they might already be unavailable to assist you — so time is of the essence. 

Final words

Formal education is expensive.

However, it shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your dream career. 

There are ways to cut your college expenses, and having free textbooks is just one of them. 

As long as you persevere, continue working hard, and avoid procrastinating, I’m confident that you will turn your dream into reality. 

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