Off to College: Cheap Textbooks!


We’ve been discussing various “off to college” matters this week here on SayCampusLife and are continuing with that theme today. Monday was about vehicle prep, Tuesday we discussed dorm room decorating on a budget and today we’ll take a look at saving money on college textbooks.

Let’s face it: up until the past few years, students did not have much of a choice when it came to buying their textbooks. Those limited options included the campus bookstore or buying a used copy from a friend.

These days the choices have expanded as a number of business models have arisen including textbook rental and discount websites. But before you make any purchase know this: try to put off your textbook buying or renting until you learn from your professors what books you actually need.

We’re not in the position to endorse one service over another one and our comments here aren’t meant to persuade you either way. In any event, we’ve sifted through much of the recent news about textbook buying and renting and can share with you the following:

Better World Books — I asked Xavier Helgesen, founder of Better World Books, to explain his business model as I was intrigued by the both the name and what I read about the company. Helgesen said, ““By buying used textbooks from Better World Books – which can be up to 80% off their sticker price – students help save trees and keep books out of landfills. But the best part is that a portion of all book purchases goes toward funding global literacy initiatives like Books for Africa and Invisible Children.  Better World Books gives students the option to save money, be eco-friendly, and do good – all with a single purchase.”

Bookbyte — Not everyone thinks that renting textbooks is better than buying and Bookbyte is one of them. Andres Montgomery, chief strategy officer for BookByte says book renting can seem a, “…good deal initially, however there are several things students need to take into consideration such as what happens if their book is damaged, lost, stolen or they need to extend the length of the rental period.” Montgomery says students would be better off buying their book and selling it once they no longer need it.

Borders Books — First, a disclaimer: I frequent Borders and enjoy their Seattle’s Best Coffee. Other than that, they haven’t given me anything to mention their new textbook service with buyback option. “College students spend nearly $1,000 each year on textbooks according to some estimates. That’s a sizable financial burden for students and families, especially in this challenging economic climate,” said Borders CEO Mike Edwards. “As a retailer that provides education and inspiration to millions of customers on a daily basis, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer a huge array of textbooks at great prices to help students advance their education.”

Chegg — One of the first names I heard about when it came to textbook rental was Chegg. We’ve discussed this company on SayCampusLife previously and understand it to be one of the leaders in the textbook rental business. Right now, Chegg is running their Golden Chegg Sweepstakes (see website) with three grand prize winners to be named sometime after the contest closes on September 13.

Rent-A-Text — In fairness to Follett Bookstores, largest operator of on campus bookstores, I need to mention that they have shaken up their business model and are also offering their own textbook renting model, Rent-A-Text.  Follett says that students will save 50% or more on the cost of textbooks (compared to new pricing)and they can rent and return textbooks in-store on campus (for same day service) or online.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of book sellers and retailers as, and are some others to check out. Wherever you decide to shop, find out what you are paying, shipping costs and taxes as well as delivery times before making your decision.


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Categories: College Budgeting