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Renting Textbooks: A Study

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BookRenter has saved thousands of people time and money with their renting service. Taking into consideration the customer feedback they received, the team at BookRenter has recently come out with a "5-Star Satisfaction Guarantee," unique to BookRenter. If you rent through BookRenter, you can be sure to benefit from the following policies:


  1. You can return your books for any reason within 21 days - no questions asked.
  2. Every order is available for express shipping, and return shipping is always free.
  3. You'll be happy with the quality of your books (or they'll ship you another one on their dime).
  4. You can extend your rental at any time at the same cheap daily rental rate.
  5. If you decide to keep the book it will never cost more than the purchase price.

In addition, BookRenter offers free shipping both ways and makes a book donation to kids in need with every order, already donating over 15,000 books!

For decades, we have been renting apartments, cars, and movies. Renting allows us to enjoy goods while we need them and return them when they are no longer useful. To mitigate the skyrocketing costs of attending college, we've seen this seemingly ancient concept applied to the textbook marketplace. But is renting textbooks actually worth it for students?

We found that, although students can save even more money by buying a used copy of a book and later reselling the book back to one of many buy-back vendors, renting is often worth it. This is partly due to the intangible benefits of renting - the renter does not have to go through the slight hassle of finding a buyer, and also avoids the risk of the book going out of date, rendering the owned edition useless.

What is Renting?

Students nowadays have the option to rent their textbooks from reputable vendors (such as bookrenter.com) for a fraction of their local bookstores' retail cost. This service takes the risk off students by guaranteeing that vendors will accept the textbooks at the end of the semester regardless of any new editions released.

The option has become popular for college students who are looking for a way to save. While renting textbooks has the same impact overall as buying books and selling them back, it lowers the upfront cost and guarantees the book will be "sold" at the end of the semester.

Recognizing the high demand for this service and the increasing popularity of online renters, over 500 college campus bookstores have decided to provide this option to their students for the Fall 2010 semester.

So what are the benefits and shortcomings of this cost effective option?

Pros

  • Lower upfront cost than purchase of a new book
  • Flexible return policy if not satisfied with the quality or do not need book for any reason
  • Shipping date guaranteed so you'll have your books in time for class
  • End of the semester return regardless of whether or not a new edition was released

Cons

  • Limited supply of books, may not have your required books
  • Limited writing/highlighting permitted in order to preserve the quality for the next renter
  • Not necessarily the least expensive option - buying used may be cheaper
  • No guarantee for supplemental material such as CDs, workbooks, or online access codes
Evidence in the numbers

book.ly offers students the opportunity to easily compare the prices for renting versus purchase new/used/international books. Based on the data collected by book.ly and professional organizations, we have put together a graph of average annual expenditures by method of purchase below:

While buying used and reselling does appear to be the most cost effective method, students should consider the risks involved in this process. While students may be able to save a little extra, it is often a hassle for students to actually find a buyer who is willing to purchase at a favorable price, and there is the risk that a new edition of the textbook is released, making the book worthless to buyback vendors. Book renters streamline this process and reduce the risks involved in reselling books, charging only a slight premium for these conveniences.

(1) http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/add-it-up/482.html
(2) http://www.nacs.org/advocacynewsmedia/faqs/faqonusedbooks.aspx
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