Trend Report: Online Book Rentals – Best Bang for Your Buck

Between the costs of tuition, room and board, books, a computer,  and the ever-essential daily Starbucks run, it’s expensive to be a college student these days. And we’re in a recession. (Good timing, right?) Now more than ever, it’s important for students to watch their wallet and look for ways to save (ideally without sacrificing your morning Venti).

Enter online book rental services. Everyone complains about trips to the crowded bookstore for overpriced textbooks, but now there’s an easy alternative: You can rent all the textbooks you need online for much less than the cost of buying them. Comparing,, and, I set out to determine which online textbook rental service offered the best bang for your buck.

Initially, I thought was the clear winner: They offer rentals per semester (130 days), per quarter (85 days), or for the summer (55 days), each with a 15-day grace period in case you need a little extra time with your book; books are shipped to you for free and come with pre-paid envelopes so you can ship them back for free too; and each rental has a 30-day risk-free period, which is handy in case you drop a class and need to send that book back. Also, if you need to take the class again, you can easily re-rent and get 30% the original rental price.

But then I discovered one big problem with…every textbook I searched for was out of stock! For the sake of fair comparison, I planned to compare the rental prices of three identical books from each service. But I couldn’t compare the prices because the first several I searched for on were MIA. After ten searches with no luck, I gave up on

Perhaps there’s a reason is number one in online textbook rentals – every book I searched for was available (annd at reasonable rental prices to boot). Though lacks a few of’s benefits (like the grace period and re-rental discount), it makes up for it with its inventory. While the prices on were a few dollars less for the books I needed this semester, they don’t offer the 30 day “any reason” guarantee, or the promise to plant a tree for each book you rent or sell like does.

By renting three books (Everything’s an Argument, Textiles, and The Science of Psychology) on instead of buying them, I would save $238.56 (renting the books for $87.72 instead of paying $326.28 to buy them). Imagine all the coffee you could buy with that extra cash (not to mention all the freetime you’ll have, what with not having to wait in line for half a day just to find out that book you paid $150 for is now only worth $15 bucks.)

By Ali Straka, University of Missouri


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