The Showdown: Renting vs. Buying Textbooks

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There’s a standard checklist for every college student at the start of a fresh semester, regardless of the season.  Registered for classes? Tuition paid for? How about buying your books?

Buying textbooks for classes can be a headache because of their high prices and often low sellback prices. But there’s an option other than the long lines in the campus bookstores that may save students time and money:

Renting textbooks.

It’s not a foreign or new concept, yet more and more university bookstores are turning to rental options besides selling textbooks.

“It’s better because a lot of the time when I want to sell my book back, they either don't take it or they give me less than half of what I bought it for,” said Tania Andrade, a fifth-year psychology major at California State University at San Marcos.

But the bookstores aren’t the only places that offer students the ability to rent their books. Sites such as Chegg or Bookrenter make renting books easy by helping the students in the long run.

“It takes about five days or less to receive the book and the box that they ship it to you in is the same box that you use when shipping it back,” said Marissa Cimino, a senior nursing student at Sacred Heart University. “Just simply go to the website when you’re ready to return it, print out the free shipping label and packing slip and bring it to UPS!”

But what books should you rent and which books should you buy? Surely not all books are created equal.

Many students rent the books that don’t apply to their major and they buy the books they know that they’ll need in the future.

“I think it's worth it to rent books for the electives that are not major-specific,” Cimino said.  “For example, this past semester I rented a textbook for my art history class. I’m a nursing major, so I don't have any reason to buy and keep an art textbook.  Also, most of the time it’s cheaper to rent the book rather than buy it and sell it back to your school's bookstore.” 

Many of the book rental sites offer the textbooks at much cheaper prices than books stores and other sites such as Amazon offer them for. Chegg even shows you the prices of buying the books new and used from other sites. For example, the fourth edition of Single Variable Calculus can be rented from Chegg for $77.99 yet it is listed in other places for purchasing for $214.95.

While renting books may seem like the smartest option financially, remember that there are pros and cons to every situation.

“A lot of the time I like to write or highlight in my books when I study but you can't really do that when it's rented,” Andrade said. “Another obvious benefit [of buying a book] would be if you really liked that book or class you could keep it. It's also really good to buy and keep some books for future reference and study.”

So you be the judge for this showdown. Who will win when it comes time to get your textbooks for nest semester? Will the lower prices for renting textbooks or the longevity of purchasing textbooks be the deciding factor?

Senior > Journalism > Stony Brook University

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