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The rush by students to rent college textbooks may be misdirected


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – College students are flocking to companies that rent textbooks rather than buying them at bloated retail prices from campus bookstores. Some students have the impression that they are saving money by renting textbooks. But research done recently by Tammy Kassner, director of admissions at Andrew Jackson University, indicates that many rental fees are frequently more expensive than buying books second-hand.

Since Andrew Jackson University delivers its low-cost courses online, and their students can’t just walk into a traditional campus bookstore, their admissions and student services departments have been helping students find good deals on textbooks. After checking prices posted online by Chegg , BookRenter and Amazon for textbooks used in eight popular courses, Tammy Kassner’s staff found that few rentals were bargains when compared to the used-book prices posted on Amazon.

Five out of the eight textbooks were less expensive to purchase, based on Amazon postings, than to rent from either Chegg or BookRenter. A textbook for a criminal justice course (CJ316) at Andrew Jackson University, for example, could be bought used on Amazon for $5.24 while rentals on Chegg and BookRenter were $45.09 and $58.40, respectively. The rentals have to be returned with minimal highlighting and no writing in the margins or the student is charged full price for the textbook, according to an article in the July 31 edition of Inside Higher Ed by Stephanie Lee. “That turns a lot of students off as they want to be able to make notes in the margin as well as highlight certain things,” commented Kassner.

Kassner says that newer editions can be cheaper to rent than to buy used as there aren’t as many newer editions flooding the market to drive down prices. One instance she found where renting made sense was a textbook required for the university’s BA 541 business course. The least expensive Amazon posting was $84.94 while the same book could be rented from Chegg for $51.50 and from BookRenter for $$27.40. “But a buyer of the new edition can also expect to sell the textbook for a pretty good price when they finish the course,” Kassner said, “so the actual net cost could be substantially less than the cost of renting.”

So what does Kassner and the Andrew Jackson University staff recommend? They encourage students to shop around and compare prices, including shipping costs. “And be sure to read the fine print if you’re renting,” she cautions. “We also suggest that our students check for their pricing comparisons. After all, we’re trying to provide our students with a quality college education at the lowest cost, and overpaying for textbooks just doesn’t fit in with that philosophy,” Kassner concluded.


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