Guide to Finding Textbooks at Harvard

students at chalk board working on math

Textbooks Are Important for Course Success.

Textbooks are essential to guide learning in college classes. A good textbook, combined with course lectures and activities, can help student knowledge and understanding of the material solidify itself. Sometimes, it can be challenging to figure out where you should get your textbooks from, and where to find the most affordable options—but your textbooks should be challenging you academically, not financially.

Widener Library

Textbooks & E-Books

Harvard has a huge library catalog, Hollis, where you can explore the system’s selection of course texts, including books, articles and media. With Hollis, you have the option of picking up a physical copy (if one is available), or you can request to pick it up at a library of your choice. Harvard Library materials are generally loaned for a semester at a time. If the materials you need are not available at Harvard, you still have options. BorrowDirect allows you to borrow materials from partner institutions. A Harvard ID also grants you access to Harvard’s databases (including JSTOR), which often have online PDFs of course books, readings, and academic articles -- all for free. You can also check out online books from Lamont Library or download them for free from initiatives like Project Gutenberg.

Harvard Square in the evening with cars driving by.

Harvard Coop Book Rentals

The Harvard Coop provides book rentals, which comes with all the benefits of having the book you need without the hefty price-tag; highlighting and annotating is permitted in rental copies as long as the textbook comes back undamaged and legible.

Two students looking at a laptop in a library study room

Online Shopping and Rentals

There are many textbook websites with books for sale or rent, including Amazon, Google Scholar, Better World Books, Cheapest Textbooks, Chegg, Bookfinder, and others. You can also check out senior sales from students on Facebook and email lists at the end of each semester, as well as the Free and For Sale Facebook group to find cheap textbooks!