Renting textbooks – a cheaper option

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By Kristen Cloyed, Contributor

A new semester means new expenses. With tuition, fees and textbooks to consider, the costs add up quickly. Besides tuition, textbooks can be the most expensive part of college. Students can easily spend hundreds of dollars on books for one semester alone.

Over the years, UNO has tried to help cut costs. The campus bookstore sells both new and used books. At the end of every semester, students can take advantage of “Book Buy Back Week,” a time when the bookstore pays students up to 50 percent of the new list price for their textbooks. Many welcome the extra cash.

Starting this semester, students can rent books for a rental fee and return them to the bookstore by the end of finals week. Textbook rental is not a new idea. Chegg.com, founded in 2007, has been loaning textbooks to students for years. With headquarters in California and a warehouse in Kentucky, Chegg.com caters to 18.4 million college students across the U.S. Every time a student rents a book from Chegg.com, the company plants a tree on his or her behalf. While UNO has only about 500 titles available for rent, Chegg.com has 4.2 million titles in its online catalogue.

UNO students have several options at their fingertips. The Big “O” Bookstore, located on 72nd and Pacific streets, promises textbooks at a lower price than the university bookstore. Its buy back prices, however, are not very generous.

The Internet is yet another way to get cheap used books. Many students purchase textbooks from Amazon.com or Half.com. Used textbooks can be purchased online for less than anywhere in Omaha.

Here’s the breakdown: the best place to buy or rent depends on the book. UNO’s rental program is an excellent option if your books are available to rent. The bookstore’s rental prices are generally cπheaper than Chegg.com, but not always. Students should do the research ahead of time to make sure they’re getting the best price.

The textbook rental program probably won’t affect where I get my books. I usually shop around, sometimes getting my books from several different websites and stores, but this means I’m shopping for books the minute school gets out. The process saves me money, but eats up plenty of my time.

In the end, it comes down to what each student wants and needs. The campus bookstore is a quick, convenient one-stop shop. Whether you’re buying or renting, the bookstore saves time. Renting textbooks is cheaper than buying new or used, but the books cannot be sold back to the bookstore. For those who are patient, many websites offer competitive pricing. Unfortunately these books can sometimes take three or more weeks to arrive and sometimes can be in pretty bad shape.

When the next semester rolls around, renting textbooks could be a good alternative to buying. The program certainly reduces some of the stress of affording textbooks. It could catch on if more titles become available for rent.  However, because renting has been an option online for years, it isn’t likely to convert the whole campus.

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