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Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying Versus Renting Textbooks

The rising cost of textbooks is one of the challenges students face every year. With the excessive cost of books, students are looking for alternatives to buying their textbooks out right. In recent years, more and more students are exploring other options such as renting textbooks, buying used books or bartering with other students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2018-2019 academic year, 35% of undergraduate students rented textbooks, while 65% purchased them.

Whether a student chooses to buy or rent a textbook depends on the student’s situation and preference. In the end, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options before making a decision. In the following article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of buying versus renting textbooks.

Advantages of Renting:

Cost Savings

The biggest advantage of renting is the savings on rental compared to buying a brand-new textbook. According to the National Association of College Stores, students who rent their textbooks save an average of 50-60% of the cost of buying the same book brand new.


Textbook rental is a convenient way to get the books you need without having to worry about buying and selling books or having to keep the book once the school year is over, especially if you will not need it for future reference. Most online booksellers provide return labels which can be printed right from their website to return the book once the rental period ends. Students find that very convenient.


Flexibility In Rental Terms

Sellers offers students great rental and return terms providing them the flexibility to return books if for instance their course changes or if they decide to drop the class. Additionally, they won’t have to deal with keeping or storing the book once they are done with the class. On the other hand, if the book is purchased, the student is stuck with it.

Disadvantages of Renting:

Strict Rental Rules

Rental companies have strict rules regarding writing or highlighting rented books. If you own the book, you can write, highlight, or manage it the way you want. However, you cannot treat a rental book the same way since you are obligated to return it in good condition, or you may end up paying for the entire book.

Limited Access for Future Reference

Renting textbooks also means that students only have access to the books for the duration of the rental period. Once the rental period is over, the book must be returned. As a result, it may not be available for reference in future classes.

Damage Charges

If a rented textbook is damaged or stolen during the rental period, additional charges may be incurred depending on the terms of agreement.

Advantages of Buying:


On the other hand, buying textbooks offers students the ability to keep the books permanently, to highlight and make notes, and to use the books as reference in the future.

Resale Value

Buying textbooks gives students the option to resell the books at the end of the semester. This can be beneficial for students who are looking to recover some of the money they spent on the books initially.

Personal Use

A purchased textbooks offers the student the option to use the books in other creative ways such as bartering the books in exchange for other needs with fellow students.

Disadvantages of Buying:


Textbooks are becoming increasingly expensive. According to the National Association of College Stores, the average student spends between $500 and $1,000 per year on textbooks. Any avenue to reduce this cost will be welcoming to the student.

Limited Use

If the student drops the class or changes courses, they may not be able to use the textbook for future classes or sell them back.

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