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All About Textbooks

Because we are owned and operated by the College (and not some large, for-profit corporation), our goal is to control textbook costs--not to make a profit on textbooks. So, unlike most college bookstores, we discount a lot of textbooks. And there is NO SALES TAX on textbooks in Pennsylvania. So don't believe everything you read at the other on-line book sites. One-stop shopping with us (here on our web site or in the store) gives you WHAT you need WHEN you need it at COMPETITIVE PRICES from PEOPLE YOU KNOW (or will soon know!). You'll be assured that you'll have the correct editions of the books you need when you purchase from us. And, if you have to return a book, we'll give you your refund on the spot. You can save shipping charges by picking up your order or, if you prefer, we can ship your order to you. Remember, before you buy elsewhere, check with us.

How Much Will Textbooks Cost?

Although book expenses obviously vary depending upon individual course choices and the requirements for those courses, you should expect to spend between $250 and $500 a semester for your books and supplies. Remember, books purchased at the Swarthmore College Bookstore for use in courses are exempt from Pennsylvania's sales tax.

Pricing Policies

We sell all textbooks at or below publishers' suggested list prices. Here is the full scoop:

  • Many new textbooks are sold to us by publishers at list price less a 20% resale discount. We use the 20% margin to cover our expenses - freight, staff, cost of equipment, cost of returns, etc.
  • Other books are priced with a greater discount--sometimes 40% or even a little more. When we get a good discount, we pass the savings along to you in the form of a lower price. So check the prices on our shelf tags and web site. The price printed on the book may be higher than the price we are charging.
  • Some books come "net priced" which means with a cost only. Most stores use a 25% to 30% margin to price these books. We use a 20% margin on these books. Again, the goal is to cover our expenses (freight, staff, cost of equipment, cost of returns, etc.) -- not to make a profit on the sale of textbooks
  • You also have the option of purchasing select books in digital form. These eBooks are available through our web site and can be economical alternatives to physical books.

Used Books

Used books are less expensive than new books. We provide used books as an option whenever possible. Used books are placed on the textbook shelves along with the new books, so you can choose for yourself.


We offer a very popular textbook rental program. Rent your textbook for the semester, securing the rental with a credit card. Return your textbook during the specified time at the semester’s end. If you decide to keep the book, we will simply charge your card for the amount the book would have cost at the beginning of the semester. Yes, you are allowed to underline and write notes in rental books, within reason.

Price Comparison Tool on the Website

Our COMPARE site is very popular with students. Click over to the compare site to find the store’s prices for purchased books, rented books, and eBooks along with prices from,,,, and more. You can fill shopping carts for as many sites as you like and then check out with each at the end. Just remember to check the timelines for delivery as well as return policies. Obviously the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store can’t provide customer service or returns for books purchased from other vendors.


The Swarthmore Campus & Community Store will buy back books at the rate of up to 50% of what you paid. This rate will apply only if they are being used the following semester and are needed to fill inventory requirements. The Swarthmore Campus & Community Store will also buy back used books at wholesale prices until inventory requirements of the wholesale supplier have been met. Wholesale prices paid to customers are determined by the wholesale purchaser and not the bookstore. Buyback typically occurs during selected days at the end of the semester.

Finding the Books You Need

Textbooks are placed on the shelves in the Bookstore according to course numbers. Shelf tags indicate the purchase prices for new books and used books as well as rental prices for new books and used books, when available. Our web site also has some very handy features. Students may enter their ID numbers and the site will return a list of books for all of the courses for which the student has registered. Individual books may be searched by author, title, ISBN, or key word. You can use our Compare tool to find and compare our prices to other major vendors. Students can purchase their books online from the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store and have their textbooks paid and ready for pick-up when they arrive on campus.

The Bottom Line

Textbooks are expensive. They are also a very important component of your education. We want to get them into your hands in the most economical way possible. If you ever have any questions about the price of textbooks, please feel free to ask us.