Should You Buy or Rent College Textbooks?



Buying college textbooks, whether new or used, is not cheap. The average student, even the one who is able to sell back the majority of his or her purchased books, would probably save lots of money if he or she were to rent textbooks instead.


Some of the advantages for renting textbooks include:

  • Potential to save a lot of money
  • Ease and convenience
  • No need to try to sell books back after using them

Buying college textbooks has its advantages. If you buy your textbooks, you can make notes in the page margins to help you remember important concepts, for instance. And if you want to keep the textbook after the class is finished, you can. This is especially beneficial if the textbook material has to do directly with your major and you want to refer to it for later classes or even later on in your professional life. If you find the textbook’s subject matter covered personally interesting, even if it’s not directly to your major, then you can keep it and pursue that subject at your leisure as well.


However, it can be hard to find cheap textbooks, even when the student turns to buying online. Depending on how many classes a student has and how many books are needed for each class, it is quite possible to pay hundreds of dollars for textbooks, sometimes even close to a thousand dollars for a full year’s worth. And though many students shop at used bookstores and sell their books at the end of the semester, sometimes departments change the books they will be using each year, requiring entering students to buy brand new college textbooks and causing the bookstores to decline to buy the old ones back from the students who are departing.


Renting college textbooks has its advantages as well, mostly in the financial arena. Many college students scrape by and have a difficult time paying for their textbooks. Textbook rentals allow for students to have the books they need for class but at a much lower cost than they would have to incur if they bought them.


Given the difficult economic climate, it is becoming more and more popular on college campuses to rent, rather than buy, textbooks. Textbook rental services, often run on independent websites, offer both new and gently used textbooks for rent, at cheap prices compared to traditional bookstores. Some estimate that students are saving up to 40% overall on their total college textbook costs because of the option to rent their books. And there’s no need to go through the hassle of trying to sell the books back at the close of the semester.

Overall, it can be estimated that students would most likely rather rent than buy their books.


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