College Textbook Rentals (Con)
This article is part of a counterpoint series between Keith Kaplan of BookRenter.com and Matt Gagnon of the BetterGrads social media team. This is Matt’s response to Keith’s article about the benefits of renting college textbooks.
Everyone knows college textbooks are expensive. During my four years in college, I spent hundreds of dollars per quarter. That really adds up with three quarters per year for four whole years.
There are a variety of alternatives to buying books from your school’s campus bookstore, and renting books is generally very affordable.
But… before you rent all of your textbooks, here are some things to consider:
- You may end up wanting to keep your books. While some rental outlets offer an option for renters to buy their books, there is often an additional fee. This is important to keep in mind when renting to save money in the first place.
- Used books are very cheap too. While rented books are generally the lowest price, used books can be very cheap as well. Prices are very competitive with the glut of sellers for used books. It was typical to see used copies available for $3 or less when I bought used books for my history classes.
- You may need your textbook immediately. Some professors don’t release the required textbook list until the first day of class with the syllabus, and then they demand you complete the reading by the next day of class. In these cases, you really need to have the textbook in your hand that day. In order to do that, you are limited to buying from your campus bookstore, or an off-campus bookseller.
- No worry about sending your book back. When you reach the end of your quarter or semester, final exams should be your chief concern—not having to return your textbooks on time. Some book renters want your book back during the week of finals, and sometimes even before your finals are over. The last thing you may want are e-mail reminders to return your textbooks while you’re still studying for those final exams.
- When you buy your books, you have the option of selling them back. While the market on some books is flooded, many books can be sold for equal or higher value. In my experience, I bought some books from the campus bookstore and sold them on Amazon for more than I paid for.
Ultimately, there is no silver bullet medium for acquiring your textbooks. To find the best deal, you need to take the time to search and compare the campus bookstore, off-campus vendors, online renters and online sellers. It comes down to what your preferences are for book conditions, your desire to keep it, and timeliness in receiving it. Try out different methods, and find what works best for you.