The Textbook Debate: Buying vs. Renting

Spring semester is either about to start, or has already started, but either way, most likely you haven’t bought all of your textbooks yet.  With so many options, it’s difficult to choose which route to take when acquiring your textbooks. Buying has its perks if you want to keep them at the end of the semester, but if you rent, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of buy back.

If textbook buy back at other schools is anything like the system we have here at Illinois State University, then you pay hundreds of dollars for your books and then at the end of the semester you basically get spare change in comparison to your original purchase. This leads students to check out alternative methods of getting their books.

Here are a few choices of bookstores and websites to check out when making your selection. If you’re smart about it, buying books doesn’t have to be the usual hassle and, in the end, you’ll have a little extra spending money for the weekend.

Campus Bookstore

This is the hassle-free way of ordering books because you can easily just walk on campus, pick up your books, and you’re ready for a productive semester.  It also allows you to sit through your first week of classes and see if you ACTUALLY need the book, or if you can get by without it.  However, this is the more expensive route.

Chegg is an awesome website where you can rent your books and give back to the environment, because Chegg plants a tree with every book rental. Wait, there’s a way to save money AND help the environment?  This is a great idea if you want to help a great cause. Don’t worry about the hassle of sending the books back at the end of the semester because it’s free to send them back with UPS. The price for renting with Chegg is very reasonable and they even have rushed delivery, but it’s not clear if there is an extra charge for that.


The always reliable, classic Amazon website is a great option when purchasing books. Shipping can be upgraded to a free 2-day service when you sign up for a program called Amazon Student.  Amazon Student members receive Amazon Prime shipping rates and benefits for one year. Just sign up by using your school, major, and .edu address. rates the books on their condition and then bases their prices off that rate. This is a great tool since most websites only refer to books as new or used. When you choose used on other websites, it’s impossible to know what condition that book will be in when you receive it.

While the majority of these options involves buying your textbooks, this is often the best choice if you want to keep the books as a reference for other classes. This is why it is important to use one of these outlets to ensure you buy cheap.

At the end of the day, the debate still rages on which is better, buying or renting…but at least now you know your options.

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