Rent books to not break the bank


It’s usually about half the price to rent a book instead of purchasing it new. Photo credit: Brian Silverman

Students should always rent their assigned text when given the option. Tuition is expensive enough. In a survey of 2,000 students from 150 campuses, the Public Interest Research Group calculated that 65 percent of students opted not to purchase textbooks last year because they were so expensive, even if it means risking their grade.

A financially responsible, environmentally conscious, and practical college student never pays full price for a textbook. If their $300 calculus book costs $27 to rent on Amazon, then they’ll gladly wait for a delivery instead of line up in the bookstore.

Fortunately, the San Mateo Community College District’s award-winning rental program saved students $1.2 million since 2005, according to the National Association of College Stores. The district paved the way for colleges nationwide to adopt similar money saving rental programs.

Purchasing an academic year’s worth of textbooks costs around $1,000 for community colleges on average, based on College Board data. Depending on the edition and physical condition, most books rent out for half or less than half of the full price. Those who rent all their textbooks save around $2,000 in their college career, according to the Student Public Interest Research Group. That money can go to a student’s health care or transportation budget.

Renting benefits the individual, but it also helps the general population because it’s more environmentally friendly. Unless an e-book is available, opt for the rental. Renting textbooks is a way to reuse precious resources.

The transition for schools to fully adopt e-book use is slow, but if publishers receive high print demands for more textbooks, the ecological option takes a backseat.

Natural forests aren’t the only ones imperiled. Producing and shipping textbooks emits air pollutants. Rental companies are spread throughout the country so they don’t have to travel far to reach their destination. Even recycling requires a lot of energy because many must go through a laborious, lengthy process of de-binding and grinding, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

After graduation, dozens books will be stashed into a dark corner of the house collecting dust. That’s why owning a textbook forever is impractical. Furthermore, students often complain that they rarely refer to them during the term. Why risk paying full price if you might not use it often?

Even those who purchase frequently admit that they don’t touch it after their final. Having the option of dropping it off to the post office eliminates those problems. Someone will have better use for it.

Fans of purchasing argue that owning the text helps students retain more information because they can annotate and refer to it in future classes. Many believe owning copies is a crucial investment for their education.

However, renters with excellent study habits know that they don’t have to drop $200 on a single book to have the best learning experience. They actively interact with the text by writing on a notebook.

A one dollar notebook filled with essential points, simple visuals, summaries, and useful quotes is a better investment. Slim notebooks are easier to refer to and organize than sifting through a mountain of 600 page monstrosities.

Until e-books become widely available for higher education, college students should sit down and fully engage with their textbook during its rental period. Investing time and effort, rather than thousands of dollars, is the smarter option.