Renting Textbooks: A Primer
by Andy Klingenberger - Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 Collegiate Success

I’ve been back in college for two quarters. I (re)started at the end of November – just after Thanksgiving – thanks to my school’s quarter system, where each block is ten weeks long, rather than the traditional semester system. (They’re doing away with that system this coming fall, but that’s not particularly relevant to this discussion.)

Anyway, I’ll be taking two classes this coming summer as well: Internet Marketing and Advertising & Promotion Management. Both of these courses require a textbook, and if I were to purchase those books from the campus bookstore, new, they’d cost me $341.65 before tax.

Needless to say, I’m put off by that prospect. After all, I’ll only be in these classes for ten weeks. That’s $34.17 per week, considering that I probably won’t revisit these texts much in the future. And that’s right around double of what I pay for my cell phone each month, or groceries for two weeks, etc. (There are lots of ways to compare that cost.)

I could also purchase these books pre-owned, but that would still end up costing me $256.25, and that would only work if the bookstore actually had used copies available. I’m still balking at that price.

Another option available to me (and I assume students on most campuses) is renting the textbooks through the bookstore. Even renting through the campus bookstore is going to cost me $167.45, and they’re due back the week before exams. That doesn’t seem smart, and it also doesn’t seem smart to delay and risk them being out of rental copies of the books I need. But it does makes me think: I bet I can rent these books elsewhere. And this leads me into the wide online world of textbook rental.

The first place I stop is a site called Chegg (spoiler alert: this is where I end up renting my books from for this quarter). To rent both books (due back one week after my final), it’s going to run me $22.99 for the first, and $45.99 for the other, for a grand total of $68.98. I like where this is heading. Chegg also includes a handy eReader that allows me to view the textbook online whenever I’d like, and it also gives me free shipping of the books back to the company warehouse. Also, they’re pretty speedy. I ordered my books on Monday, and they’re scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

For good measure, I also checked out a few more sites, and there are plenty more where these came from. seems promising, but it turns out it’s more of a clearinghouse that shows you the prices of a few different retailers. I pick the cheapest (obviously), and I’m taken to Knetbooks, where it’s $24.95 to rent one of my needed books, and $36.23 to rent the other. That’s a better price, but they’re due back a week before the finals, so that site’s out. (They do offer longer rentals for an additional price, and they also offer free shipping back to them.) is a nice site as well, and they have a feature where you can pick your own return date and they’ll spit a price out at you. Using the return date that I got from Chegg, I find that one of the books will cost me $30.25, and the other $37.46. They also offer free shipping both ways, which Chegg did not. No word if they have the same eReader though.

Barnes & Noble itself also offers textbook rentals, and they’re charging $22.71 for my first book, and $56.62 for the second. A little more expensive than the other options I’ve explored, but they do offer free shipping back to them as well.

Amazon also offers textbook rentals, but the prices are as egregious as renting them from the campus bookstore. One of the books isn’t available to rent, and the other $81.18.

In the end, like I said, I went with Chegg. I liked their site, the ease of use, and the overall price. With tax and shipping it ended up costing me $85 or so to rent both books for the quarter – a far cry from the campus bookstore prices. Granted, I can’t keep the books, but I do know how to take copious notes.

Skimming some of the fine print, all the retailers allow renters to highlight as needed, but ask that you don’t go overboard since there are going to be people using the books after you. If you end up dropping the class, retailers offer a 21 to 30 day window where you can return the books without a charge. And if you decide you really want to keep the book after all? You can simply purchase it through the site where you rented it.

If you’re in the market for textbooks and aren’t particularly concerned about keeping them after the term ends, make certain to check out your rental options. Your parents (or your own wallet in my case) will undoubtedly thank you for your good financial sense.

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