It is absolutely possible to buy school textbooks online and often much more cost-effective than using a campus bookstore. Both used and new books can be readily found in shops and auctions online. With a little comparison shopping, it is often possible to save 50% or more on textbooks.
Online new textbook retailers can generally offer lower prices than campus bookstores. Specialty stores that sell only textbooks are able to order in bulk and sell books at a discount. Others online retailers sell a wide variety of items, but often run shipping specials that can justify a few extra dollars per book. Look for advertised free shipping specials to get the best deals.
It is easy to find school textbooks online at auction websites or secondhand retailers. Half.com is one of the most famous of these sites, but specialty stores can sometimes offer better prices. Since the auction sites have continual stock changes with various users, there is no guarantee that the best price today will be the best price tomorrow.
The advantage to these specialty used book sellers is that many of them also buy back the books that were purchased. Campus bookstores usually offer this service as well, so it is a good idea to see who will give the best price for unwanted books at the end of the semester. This little extra can help in the purchase of books for the following semester or provide that little infusion of cash needed at the end of the school year.
Another option to find school textbooks online is to rent them. This service began in early 2000s and has steadily grown. Some websites offer prices that reportedly can save up to 85% of the cost of textbooks. For those who don't want to go through the hassle of buying and selling back books, this alternative can offer similar cost effectiveness.
When buying school textbooks online there are a few things to keep in mind. Particularly when using used bookstores, use the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to make sure they are the correct edition as information changes between editions. Be careful with literature books as sometimes teachers want particular forwards or commentary in the edition they ask for. If this is the case, the edition will usually be noted on the syllabus. When researching the prices for school textbooks online, take shipping into account before purchasing since some stores will offer significant discounts that could make them less expensive even if their book prices are more.