Textbook rentals a popular trend that helps cut costs for college students

By Jessica Wegelin
September 3, 2009

Each year, college students try to save their money by buying used books or ordering books overseas for half the regular retail price. After the academic year is over, another option that students take advantage of is selling their books back to try and get some of their money back.

“For the past two years I have been buying my books from the bookstore, and I have always felt as though it is a rip-off but what are you going to do? You have no choice, it’s either buy the book or fail the course,” Jamie O’Hanlon, junior elementary and special education major, said.

College textbooks are among one of the prevalent expenses after tuition, meal plans, and room and board. With the economy and continuous increasing cost of tuition, college students have turned to renting books instead of buying them.

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, college students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks.

The prices on books have also risen at four times the rate of inflation. A federal report done four years ago found that textbook prices nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004.

There are many websites that offer renting books to students but Chegg.com, BookRenter.com and Skoobit.com are among the most popular for those students looking to conserve money on books.

Besides giving students the alternative option of renting books, rentals also give both the publishers and textbook authors a way to keep on earning money from their books after the first sale. This is something the authors do not receive from the sale of their used book.

A commonly used biology book that is normally listed at $158 in a school book store can be rented from Chegg.com for roughly $55.

“I heard about Chegg from one of my friends who said she saved a lot of money last year, so I looked into renting my books for this semester and found that I saved over $200,” Melissa Mariani, junior communication major, said.

Books can be rented when needed, whether it is needed for the entire semester, quarterly or different time periods ranging from 30 to 125 days.

“I just bought my books the other day and never heard about renting them, if I had known I definitely would have done that to save some money. The whole process sounds pretty convenient and beneficial at the end of the day,” Kate Schmid, senior marketing major, said.

When the course is over and the student wants to return their books, they return them in the mail using a prepaid postage label. However, if books are late, Chegg charges a 25 percent late fee and a replacement fee for those who choose to not return their books.

Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act last year that included $10 million to help support textbook rental programs.

Although Cabrini has yet to jump on the bandwagon of renting books to their students, about 20 other college bookstores have applied for grants.

Jessica Wegelin

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