Can You Rent College Textbooks?

Rent College TextbooksWith the cost of college course materials higher than ever, many retailers now make it possible for students to rent college textbooks. Textbook rentals can provide a money-saving alternative to costly book purchases, particularly when students plan to discard their course materials at the end of the semester.

How Do Textbook Rentals Work?

Although the details differ among various retailers, most textbook rentals follow a similar format. Students typically select a time period for a textbook rental, after which they return the book to the retailer. Because students do not own rental textbooks, the cost of a rental is usually significantly lower than the item’s purchase price. Most systems allow students to highlight and mark up their rental books within reason, as retailers recycle textbook rentals each semester, and there may be additional fees if a book is unusable for future renters. Note that professor-curated course packs generally will not be available as rentals, as these items are usually photocopies of miscellaneous source materials.

Even if your college bookstore does not offer textbook rentals, retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have textbook rental programs. Their websites contain information on the specifics of their rental programs.

When Does It Make Sense To Rent a Textbook?

It typically makes sense to rent college textbooks when you know or suspect that you will not need the course materials after the course has ended. For courses outside the major, particularly those with expensive course materials, renting a textbook may be more economical than purchasing it, even if you have the option to purchase a used copy.

If you are not sure whether you will want to keep your course materials, you should inquire from the retailer whether your rental includes an option to purchase the item. Retailers also have different policies on refunds for students who drop a course early in the semester; if you have questions about any specific policy, you should always ask the retailer before paying for your textbook rental.

Why Not Just Sell Textbooks Back at the End of the Semester?

Each semester, some students attempt to recoup money spent on textbooks by reselling them either to their campus bookstores or through private retailers. Textbook resale programs typically provide a very low rate of return on textbooks, particularly if the books contain any highlighting or notes. By contrast, renting a textbook allows students to save money upfront without waiting until the end of the semester to realize savings. Renting a textbook also saves students the labor of locating buyers for their used books, and it allows students to mark up texts within reason.

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Renting college textbooks is one additional way to save money on educational expenses, particularly when students do not need course materials after the end of the semester. If you need additional information about how to rent college textbooks at your university, you should consult your university bookstore or try an online retailer.