15 Tips for Buying Textbooks

1.      Renting used books can cost less than half the price of renting new ones.

2.      Although, sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase a book instead of renting one.

3.      Simplify matters by checking out online comparison sites, such as textbookrentals.com or bigwords.com. They provide price breakdowns of new and used books to rent or purchase, and shipping costs among companies. There is also a category listing the buyback value of textbooks.

4.      Order early and avoid the chaotic scramble at the bookstore during the first weeks of classes. Waiting for backordered textbooks can put a student behind on assignments.

5.      Keep in mind that the clock starts ticking from the time an order is placed, so make sure that the rental period doesn’t fall short. For the intercession, 60 or 90 day rentals work fine; choose 125 day rentals for fall and spring semesters. This will usually bring a student throughout the semester–including finals week. Some sites, such as Skyo, also offer a free extension when placing the order.

6.      Look at the return policies; be certain that a textbook can be returned if there is an error, or if a student decides to withdraw from a class. Some sites will have small restocking charges, too.

7.      Go where it’s reputable – a company with a good track record can make the ordering process safe and seamless.

8.      Don’t forget about the school’s bookstore – sometimes they offer the best prices. Other advantages include: convenience, lengthy rental periods, and the ability to physically choose copies that are in the best condition before renting or purchasing. Also, there are certain books that can only be purchased at the bookstore.

9.      Luckily, highlighting in rented textbooks is usually allowed. However, sites like Valore ask it to be done minimally; extra return fees can incur if overdone. To avoid this, incorporate small colored stickies to accent text, which are easy to remove.

10.  Factor in shipping fees as a whole; ordering many books from the same place can be cost-efficient. For example, Amazon offers a six month trial period of shipping benefits and promotions called Amazon Student. Chegg is currently promoting free shipping with $85 orders. Also, Skyo advertises free shipping and often has the cheapest prices.

11.  Save the original shipping boxes for the future returns.

12.  Stay organized – keep receipts together, store passwords, make checklists of all textbooks, categorize them as rented or purchased, and specify where they were rented from and the due dates. This will help at the end of the semester when a student’s mind is consumed with writing papers and studying for finals.

13.  Know your policy – several rental sites have opportunities for students to buy a book they would like to keep; policies differ.

14.  Shipping back textbooks at the end of the semester costs nothing; prepaid labels are easy to print and affix to boxes.

15.  Be aware that some sites use UPS as their shipping method, while others use USPS. Be careful not to drop off a package to the wrong place accidentally.

By Kim Wrighter


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