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To Rent Textbooks or Buy Textbooks: That Is the Question

Feb 17 2010 at 8:52 pm by

2010 is the year of options in the textbook industry. There are many options available when purchasing college textbooks, but which option is the cheapest and best fits your needs? You can purchase new and used books from the campus bookstore, turn to online retailers to buy cheap textbooks or rent textbooks from the campus store or online. In order to get the best deal, you should explore all of your available options and choose the method that best suits you and your budget. Below, we analyze each option.


The campus bookstore is a good option for students who need their textbooks right away. Sometimes, students don’t have access to their required textbooks until the first day of classes. Because of this, students turn to the campus bookstore because it is a quick, convenient way to purchase textbooks. While the campus bookstore provides convenience, it is almost never the cheapest option compared to buying textbooks online or renting textbooks. Normally, only two price points are offered; the book’s list price and its used price which is generally set to 25% less than the new list price. Students’ recognize that they are over spending at the bookstore, however if they need a book in order to complete an assignment on time, they may need to turn to the bookstore. Professor’s can help students save money by posting required reading materials at least two weeks in advance to the course start date. This gives students ample time to explore other options such as buying cheap textbooks online and accounts for shipping time as well.

Buying Textbooks at the Campus Bookstore:

· Expensive

· Convenient

· Timely

· Able to sell back qualified titles

By purchasing textbooks online, students can find both new and used copies at varying price points, as well as older editions, instructor’s editions and international editions. Online marketplaces are typically the cheapest place to buy books due to competition among sellers. Many sellers competing to sell their items as well as numerous options lead to lower prices. Budget minded students are already familiar with the savings of buying textbooks online. Some students worry about timeliness and reliability of purchasing from online vendors. When purchasing from a marketplace, students are encouraged to purchase items from sellers with high customer feedback ratings. Choosing a seller with a proven track record of reliability and timeliness eliminates possible order problems. Besides choosing a recommended seller, many marketplaces offer fast shipping options. Choosing Priority Mail or faster is the best option for students in a time crunch. Lastly, purchasing from an online marketplace gives students the backing of the customer service department at that marketplace. In the event that a vendor sends an incorrect item or any issue surfaces throughout the order, this is important.

Buying Textbooks Online:

· Inexpensive

· Variety of editions and sellers

· Must account for shipping time

· Able to sell back qualified titles

Renting textbooks is another option that has gained traction this year; however current textbook rental prices can be deceptive. There are fees for late returns, lost or stolen books and books that are returned in a worse condition. Renting textbooks also does not leave students with the option to sell the book back through a textbook sell back program or list it on an online marketplace to recover some additional cash when they are done using the book. Lastly, students who wish to keep their book at the end of the semester should not rent textbooks. The option to purchase the book at the end of the rental period is currently very expensive and students can end up paying the list price of the book or greater. The advantage to textbook rentals is that students can spend less money upfront, though that is not always true. Depending on the book, it may still be cheaper to buy the book used online.

Renting Textbooks:

· Low upfront cost

· Late/Damage/Replacement/Purchase Fees

· Must account for shipping time

· Unable to sell back

The three options above have both pros and cons, so it is important to weigh your needs when choosing where and how to acquire your textbooks. We want to know where you bought your college textbooks this semester! Please make your selection on the poll below and share any comments about your experience!

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  1. Абсолютно с Вами согласен. В этом что-то есть и я думаю, что это отличная идея….

    2010 is the year of options in the textbook industry…..

  2. Fantastic post, I found this just in time. I’m gonna save this post for future reading. Thank You.

  3. I really enjoyed this post, especially the “examples in this post” portion which made it really easy for me to SEE what you were talking about without even having to leave the article. Thanks

  4. Hey there, You’ve performed an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and in my view recommend to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this web site.

  5. From my experience never rent a book! Here is why. I rented aPsychology 200 book from South Seattle community college in 2013 for $77.00. I left my trunk open one day and the book was damaged and the book store charged me another $152.00 . So, you do the math. It’s easier to buy and deal a crab.