Many college students are facing down that age-old struggle – how to get the textbooks they need without blowing their savings. One option, growing in popularity, is to rent those textbooks. Like most students, you’ve probably already started thinking about this issue.
Anyone considering this option should think through the pros and cons of textbook rental to make sure it’s the best choice for them. Here are five common textbook rental questions and their answers. Reading through them, should make you better prepared to decide whether renting is right for you.
What are the benefits of renting textbooks?
The most obvious benefit of renting textbooks is saving money. Textbook companies like this one may rent books for as low as 30-40% of their purchase price. This could translate into hundreds of dollars in savings for the average student.
There are other benefits to renting textbooks. One of these is saving time. Most textbook rental companies operate online. A savvy student can skip the enormous lines at the bookstore and place their order on a break between classes.
Another benefit is saving space. Sometimes textbooks can’t be sold back at the end of term and students are left with what are essentially paper bricks, now only good for propping up tables and shoving under beds. Renting means books that have served their purpose can be returned whether or not they’ll be on the reading list next year.
When is it better to rent a textbook, rather than buy it?
Not all textbooks are created equal. Some are used in multiple classes or you may just decide you like a particular book and don’t wish to return it. Before choosing to rent, try to determine if this is a book that you’ll need or want in later years.
A good rule of thumb for deciding whether to rent or buy is to think about how long you’ll need the book. The New York Times suggests looking at the type of course the book is for. If the class is spread over multiple semesters, and the professor has made it clear the same book will be used each term, it may be cheaper to buy.
You’ll also want to think about whether or not you’ll use the book once class has ended. Does it contain good reference material that can be cited in a future job? Are there any poignant parts you expect to refer back to over and over again? If the answer is yes, it might be worth the investment.
How do I know I’m getting the right textbook?
The best way to know you’re getting the right book is to confirm with the International Standard Book Number or ISBN. This is the number assigned to all publicly available books that uniquely identifies them. Checking the ISBN should ensure you’re getting the correct edition from the correct publishing house.
Any professor worth their salt should provide the ISBN for all the books on their reading list. If not, you can always ask for it or, work with a bookseller to track down the right version based on what edition is requested.
If there haven’t been too many significant changes, you might be able to save more money by renting an older edition. Check with your professor before doing so. There might be essential new material in the updated edition.
How do I choose the right textbook rental company?
The process for choosing the right textbook is the same as choosing any other retailer. You’ll need to spend a little time doing research and comparison-shopping. Prices are just one of the things you’ll want to consider.
Ask yourself these questions while researching textbook rental companies:
- Is the company rated well on independent review sites?
- If there are lower ratings, are those due to one-time issues or does the same problem occur for multiple customers?
- What is the company’s return policy? Is it something you can easily abide to?
- Are refunds available if you drop a class?
- What versions of books are available and are some more cost effective?
Most textbook rental companies will have an FAQ page like this one. They’re a great place to start your research. You can also talk to other students to see what companies have worked well for them.
What are the downsides to renting textbooks?
Renting may not be for everyone. For instance, if you tend to be a little careless with your school supplies, you might not want a book that has to be returned in good condition. Most textbook rental companies allow for moderate wear and tear but there could be a cost for serious damage.
Speaking of costs, the money spent renting a textbook is never recouped. Whereas a purchased book might be eligible for resale, a rented book can only be returned, not resold. If you’re hoping to get a little money back at the end of the year, renting might not be for you.
Hopefully this Q & A has put you on a path to understanding your options for textbook rentals. Remember, it all comes down to what works best for you. Do your research, get your books, and enjoy your semester.