How To Buy University Textbooks In Australia For Less

One of the biggest expenses you face when you’re returning to university is textbooks — individual volumes can cost hundreds of dollars in some subjects. Here are a few basic techniques to cut back on those expenses.

Textbooks picture from Shutterstock

Buy Second-Hand

The best-established technique for saving on textbooks is to buy second-hand. This doesn’t always work — if a new edition of a textbook is assigned, working with the older addition is at best an inconvenience as you try to track page references, and at worst means you’ll be learning outdated information. However, in many cases the same texts are assigned year after year.

If your course load is largely fixed, then keep an eye out towards the end of the year for the textbooks you’ll need for the following year — former students will often sell them off. Check campus noticeboards. Many universities also have second-hand bookshops on site. Beyond that, check out Gumtree, eBay and Facebook for listings on the titles you want.

Use The Library Or Share

If your library has a copy of the relevant textbook, you may be able to rely on accessing it there. High-demand textbooks are often only made available for brief periods, so this requires careful planning. It’s not the ideal option, but if a text is stocked in multiple copies, it may be workable.

A variant on this tactic is to share with fellow students. This won’t work if the course relies heavily on a single textbook that’s used every week, but it can be helpful in subjects such as literature where you’re reading a new work each time. I successfully completed an entire year of English courses sharing texts with a friend; we just made sure we weren’t in the same tutorial groups.

Shop Around

If you have to purchase a specific text, your first stop should be our favourite price comparison site, Booko, which will show you the price for any given book at every major Australian and overseas online bookstore. It may seem convenient to buy everything at the campus bookstore, but shopping around can often prove substantially cheaper. Just don’t leave it until the last minute.


Textbook rental means you’re effectively splitting the cost with other students over time. It’s an option I wish had existed when I was at university. These are the active players in the Australian market:

The downsides? You can’t take notes on the texts and you have to keep them in reasonable condition. Check pricing carefully (and across multiple sites): if the difference is minimal, buying new and then selling the book yourself may make more sense.

How do you cut down on textbook expenses? Share your experiences in the comments.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


15 responses to “How To Buy University Textbooks In Australia For Less”