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Renting Books for College: How to Do It

Aug 9, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

It’s tough not to suspect that college textbooks are a big scam. Campus bookstores get away with selling new copies of hardbound books for $100 or more. It’s not unusual for students to pay $1,000 or more for a semester’s worth of books.

Luckily, many companies are springing up to help students get their textbooks at reasonable prices. There are several online stores where you can buy used textbooks, including And you can also rent them. Here’s how.

Find out what textbooks you need as soon as possible

This isn’t always easy to do. Some professors don’t get their syllabi out until a few days before class, and it might take a while to find out which classes you’ve gotten into. But it’s key to find out as soon as possible because you might be ordering your textbooks online . If you get your syllabus late for some classes, you may be able to get the books from the school library until your rented books come in the mail.



Row of Books

Talk to your school’s bookstore

Sometimes campus bookstores have rental programs, so be sure to check. Look at the prices on some online book rental sites to get an idea of the going rates for renting the textbooks you need, however. Your bookstore may be more expensive to rent from than an online book rental company. But then again, you can get the books right away there, so the convenience might be worth it—especially if you got your syllabus last minute.

Check out online book rental sites

There are several online book rental sites, and not all are equal. Ask among students you know have used online rental sites before to get their opinion—and do a Google search for reviews of different sites. In addition, check to see that the rental site you choose has every book you need—this will let you save on shipping, if the site charges for shipping—some don’t.

Popular textbook rental sites to look into include Cheap Textbook Rentals,, College Book, and Skoobit.

Know the regulations

Before ordering, check to see what the rules are. Are you allowed to write in the margins of your rented book? When are you supposed to return it—and what happens if you’re late? What happens if you accidentally drop your book in a mud puddle—or lose it? Are you charged a fee if the book is returned in worse condition than when it was shipped? And what constitutes “worse condition”?

Know that it’s a better deal

Also, check to see what the return policy is. Are you supposed to mail the book back? And do you pay for shipping on your own? How much will it cost?

Shipping plus other charges may make it less expensive to buy used books, either online or at your college bookstore—bear in mind that you only have to pay for shipping once if you buy used textbooks online. Also, if it’s relatively expensive to ship your books back, bear in mind that you may not save much over renting or buying from your college bookstore.

Order your books

Once you’ve made sure that renting a college textbook is really the best deal possible, go ahead and place your order. It may take a few days for your textbooks to arrive, so you may have to borrow from friends or the campus library until the books get to you. But hopefully when they do, you’ll have saved a lot of money over buying new books—or renting from your college bookstore.

Before you rent college textbooks, it’s important to find out whether it’ll save you money—because that’s the whole point, after all. Find out the going rates for the books you need—both new and used at your college bookstore, at a used bookseller’s, and at a textbook rental site. Then add in the costs for shipping (one way for an online used textbook store, and both ways for a rental site). Renting may not be the best deal in every case. Also keep in mind the rules—if you’re penalized for writing in your book and you’re the type of student who likes to highlight, you might be better off buying. But do your homework, and hopefully you can get your college textbooks without breaking the bank.



Sebastián Puerta Over a year ago

Great article, and lots of information. Thank you this helped me out a lot

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