Rent or buy textbooks for college: How to save money on your textbooks

Rent vs buy textbooksIt won’t be long before you’ll be hitting the books again. When it’s time to choose, which will you opt for? Will you rent or buy your textbooks for college? In this article we look at the pros and cons to each choice and give you a few ideas to help you save money on your textbooks. But there are other things to consider as well.

Save money on your textbook purchases

According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), students spend an average of $655 on their required course materials. Depending on your major, this figure could be substantially higher. This figure doesn’t take into account any savings that come from selling the textbook after the course is over. Nor does it take into account other fees paid such as lab fees, art supplies, medical supplies, and other costs not included in the tuition total.

Tips on how you can save money on your textbook purchases come from Robert Berger. In his July 26, 2013 post for titled, “8 ways to save money on college textbooks” he gives cash strapped students useful advice including:

  • avoid the college bookstore where prices tend to be higher
  • use an ISBN number when searching for books online to make sure that you get the right edition
  • rent rather than buy expensive books such as those for math or science
  • choose ebooks, which tend to cost less than hard copy texts

Know before you rent

If you decide to rent your textbooks, then keep in mind that you will have to return them eventually. You’ll want to read all the fine print in your rental agreement so that you avoid any extra charges.

John O’Rourke offered more food for thought in his September 6, 2011 post for BU titled, “Textbooks: rent, buy, or ebook it?

According to O’Rourke, “If you do rent textbooks rather than buy them, it’s important to establish that the rental period will extend throughout the entire semester . . . it’s also important to know that sites differ on what kinds of marking and highlighting will be tolerated before a book is considered damaged . . .”

Deciding to rent or buy

Saving money isn’t the only thing to consider when making the rent or buy decision. You’ll also want to think about:

  • will you be using the same text for multiple semesters
  • is it a book that you’d like to keep
  • will you be able to sell the book back for a reasonable price
  • can you save more by buying a used book
  • if you rent will supplements such as CDs be included
  • how much will shipping cost you
  • is there a 30-day return policy in case you drop the course

Whatever way you go, be sure to check with your professor a week or two before the start of classes for a list of which books, supplements, and materials you will need. Ask if this is the last time that this edition and text will be used.

CengageBrain has textbooks for all of your needs. You can choose to rent or buy. There is even the option to rent only the textbook chapters you actually need. You can go for digital or paper copies. Right now is a good time to stock up because you get free shipping on your purchases of hard copy texts. What’s more, you can start reading right away with free ebook access while your book ships to you.

But this is just the beginning. Other reasons to shop at include:

  • price discounts up to 65 percent
  • you can rent single chapters
  • free study tools
  • access free content referenced in your textbook
  • access to free companion web sites

Head over to right now where you can find out about today’s deals and sign up for an account.

Will you buy or rent your textbooks next semester? Do you prefer hard copy or digital textbooks?

5 replies
  1. Max says:

    Thanks for sharing this incredible knowledge and I hope it will help a lot most of the students.
    Another i want to add that students should buy used college textbooks to save the money.

  2. Theodora Tsarouhtsis says:

    Would anyone ever be interested in a subscription service that allowed you to pay one price to have access to online versions of textbooks? If so, would you also like having the option to have a hard copy sent to you, or would just the ebook version of the textbook work for you?

  3. Jeremy Thompson says:

    It’s alarming to learn that students these days manage to spend approximately a minimum of $655 on just books alone without the student debts even. I better make sure that my son wouldn’t have to waste so much cash in college. I might refer him to these apps I’ve been hearing where you can sell your books. Hopefully, that would be able to give him a dew bit more of an income for all those wasted money on one-time use books. Thanks!


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