Okay, I have to get this out there. I see WAY too many people falling for this “textbook rental” thing–and wasting away their money.

“But it’s cheaper than buying!” you say.

But…what if I told you that your net price for buying a textbook could be $0-$40 on average?

That’s right. You can literally spend as little as $10 or NOTHING on a textbook.

Now that I have your attention…

The Logic Behind It

Textbook suppliers are counting on you to see the “lowest price” and go for it.

For example, a website lists a book and has the options “Buy New, Buy Used, Rent Used, Rent Digital”.

Your eyes immediately went to the “Rent Used”, then “Rent Digital”, then you might have glanced at the “Buy New” and “Buy Used” (at least, that’s what my eyes did when I first did the search for this textbook).

Renting it is half the price of buying it new, and renting digital is half the price of buying it used! So what’s the big deal?

Here is a screenshot of the same book on Amazon:

First, notice that even Amazon-fulfilled with Prime (which means that you get free 2-day shipping), buying new is way cheaper than the bookstore.

Check out the Used price: only $100 right now, as compared to the Used price in-store, which is $125.

That doesn’t just mean that you can buy your textbook for $100…

That also means you can sell your book on Amazon again for $100.

The Math Behind It

I’m just going to use my Biological Psychology textbook I used last semester as an example.

I bought the paperback book on Amazon for $79.26. I was lucky enough to get it new because there was only a tiny price difference between new and used–more on that later.

I just sold it to someone else for $60.95. After Amazon took a cut and I paid for shipping, I ended up with about $42 in my pocket.

That’s a net expense of $37 that I paid for that book. Admittedly not the best I’ve ever done (last fall I gave my books to my mom to sell for me, so I don’t have the records), but to rent it would have cost me at least $120–because that’s the Amazon rental price.

I saved myself at least $83 by buying used and reselling, rather than renting.

Add that up over 4 classes (10 if your a music major, heh) and you could save yourself $332-$415 in a single semester. That’s around $800 a year.

Wrapping It Up, Plus Some Additional Textbook Protips

Sometimes, we are a little tighter on money than we’d like to be, and spending less money now is more beneficial to you than spending less money in the long run. i.e., if you’re not getting another paycheck until the end of January and you really need to pay rent–then renting your textbooks is probably the best option for you. Renting is good if you’re in a bind.

But on the whole, it’s best to buy used on Amazon and then resell when the semester ends. Ideally, you can use that same money toward textbooks for the next semester, but you can also have some money for whatever is most immediate: rent, food, car insurance, etc.

A few parting tips for you before I go…

  • Always buy something you can sell back. You typically don’t want to buy a textbook that is in “Acceptable” condition–it can be pretty tattered. If, as you’re using it throughout the semester, it falls apart, you won’t be able to sell it back. That’s why on my Biological Psychology book, I paid a dollar or two extra for the new book–I’d be more likely to get more money for it later.
  • Buy when it’s low, sell when it’s high. Buy your textbooks as soon as you know your classes for the next semester (middle/end of the semester), and then sell when they’re in high demand (first week of classes). You’ll save yourself a few bucks.
  • Buy paperback when you can. If you look back up at my Amazon screenshot, you’ll see a table in the bottom right-hand corner–most of the time, it lists the paperback, ring-bound, or other versions, and they’re cheaper than the hardback. Once, I even bought a loose-leaf version of a textbook and put it in a binder. It was awesome, it was only like $20 or something, and then I sold it back later.
  • Take care of your books!!!! Like I said, you’ll get more money back if it’s in great condition!
  • Sell it for the lowest price for your condition. I usually just list mine as the lowest price, because I’m a play-it-safe kind of person. But this also works. If the condition of your book is “Very Good”, make sure you list it as the lowest price for all the books marked “Very Good” or even “Like New”. People will pay a few extra bucks for the better quality–I know I have before!
  • Unless you’re in a bind, or your books aren’t offered elsewhere, NEVER BUY FROM YOUR UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE AGAIN. Do I even need to say this after this post? ENJOY FREEDOM, MY FELLOW SCHOLARS!

Happy buying–hope I could save you a few bucks this semester and later!

If you enjoyed this, share it with your friends!

Leave a Reply