Just when you think that you have the cost of college covered, you’re faced with the daunting expense of textbooks. Some students choose to purchase textbooks and then sell them back at the end of the semester. You can also choose to rent school books, usually for a cheaper price. If you’re not planning to keep a textbook to use later, consider renting as an affordable option.

Check Out Textbook Rental Websites

If you’re looking at an alternative to purchasing your textbooks, there are numerous textbook rental websites to consider. Some textbooks may be offered in electronic form, and others will be delivered through the mail. In addition to the cost of the book, check out shipping fees.

You can comparison shop online. Here are a few sites to help you in your search:

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  • Barnes & Noble
  • MBS Direct
  • Amazon
  • eCampus.com
  • Chegg Books
  • Alibris Books
  • Campus Books
  • Campus Book Rentals
  • Knetbooks

You can also look into online options offered by your campus bookstore. Some sites will comparison shop for you by serving as a marketplace for several vendors.

Should You Rent or Buy?

In addition to saving some money, renting textbooks can be a faster way to get a hold of a textbook. This is particularly true if you’re willing to rent an e-book. A rental book is a cost-effective alternative to a purchased book for general education or elective courses.

You should also think about how you use textbooks. If you interact with your textbooks and highlight text, purchasing may be a better option. Rented textbooks must be returned in good condition, so be sure that you’re prepared to take excellent care of the materials.

How to Rent School Books

Once you make the decision to look for cheap textbook rentals for college, you’ll want to try a variety of sites to find the best prices. Use the ISBN number to ensure you’re renting the correct book. Often, book titles are the same, or you may find various editions of the same textbook.

Facts About Rented Textbooks

If you want to rent school books, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors.

Rental Period

Consider how long you’ll need to use the book before entering into a rental agreement. Most rental companies have short-term rentals of 30 to 60 days and quarter-long or semester-long rentals. You may also be able to rent for a longer period of time or extend the rental if need be.

Supplemental Materials

Look at the fine print of the textbook requirements for your classes. If you have a professor who requires supplemental materials or an access code, then renting a textbook may not be an option. Each rental company offers different features related to supplemental materials, so ensure that you get what you need.

Buy Option and Grace Period

Be aware of the return date of your rented books so that you don’t have to pay extra fees. There could be a grace period that allows you a few extra days to return your books. If you decide that you don’t want to return them, you may be able to pay extra to keep them.

Rewards Programs

Some companies offer a rewards program that will give you points for each book rental. You can use these points for discounts or free rentals in the future.

Customer Service

Before you decide on a rental company, check into the customer service options. Since it’s possible that you may receive the wrong book or have a payment question, it’s important to know that you will have a variety of ways to communicate.

Be Aware of Extra Fees

As you’re considering textbook rental websites, review the fees that may be charged in addition to the cost of the rental. Damage fees, late return fees and shipping can add to the total cost of the rental. Compare the total cost of renting versus buying to make the choice that works best for you.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.