textbooks: buy, rent or use digital textbooks

Let’s face it—getting your textbooks for college can get complicated. Is it better to rent or buy college books? If you want to go digital, should you rent digital textbooks? We’ve done the research for you—here are all the pros and cons.

Buying vs. Renting Textbooks

Let’s start with the most conventional: buying cheap textbooks. You can get to a college bookstore and get everything you need at once, but it is not cheap. Alternatively, you can buy used books: by doing so, you can save some money, and it’s a more sustainable option.

buying college textbooks pros and cons


renting college books pros and cons


Is It Better to Rent or Buy College Books? Price Comparison Test #1

If you’re still not sure whether to buy or rent college books, you’ll need to do the math. Here is a pricing comparison of the two textbooks:

Example 1

ISBN: 9780135056080
Rent for a semester: $53.26
Buy new: $146.78
Buy used: $110.17
Estimated buyback value: $64.94 (includes FREE shipping)
Recommendation: The cheapest option is to buy a used book and sell it back. The total cost to you is $45.23.

Example 2

ISBN: 9781305957404
Rent for a semester: $29.14
Buy new: $86.18
Buy used: $84.12
Estimated buyback value: $34.12 (includes FREE shipping)
Recommendation: In this case, the cheapest option is to rent for $29.14.

The question of whether to buy or rent textbooks now has another dimension… the cheap digital textbooks.

digital textbooks vs physical books

Buying or Renting Digital Textbooks

Online Etextbook rental introduces a whole new factor to the equation. Turning to digital textbooks has some definite advantages, the biggest of which is not having to carry around that backpack full of books. You can access your digital textbooks anytime from your device online. Yet, this option—like the more traditional ones reviewed earlier—has its pros and cons.

buying or renting digital textbooks - pros and cons

Is It Better to Rent Digital Textbooks? Price Comparison Test #2

Is it cheaper to go digital? Should we all buy digital textbooks now? Not necessarily. Here’s a comparison:

Example 3

ISBN: 9780134523804
Buy eBook: $49.99
Rent eBook: $29.99
Rent for a semester: $25.98
Buy new: $73.93
Buy used: $51.69
Estimated buyback value: $32.55
Recommendation: In this case, buying a used book and selling it back or renting a printed book are both less expensive options than a digital textbook rental.

Therefore, we can conclude that if you want to stay flexible, you should rent digital textbooks or at least consider this option. If you prefer to access your books from your device and don’t want to be burdened by a dozen of hardcovers, a digital textbook copy is well worth its price.

Use BookScouter to Make a Choice between Buying and Renting

BookScouter makes it simple to check your price options for any textbook. Let’s say, you need to compare the difference between the purchase and rental price for a textbook, and you are considering all options—printed and digital textbooks alike. To do so, you enter the ISBN in the search field and check the prices by toggling from Buy to Rent. You can also see and compare both Buy and Sell offers on the same Buy page and roughly calculate your future buyback profit if you decide to buy a book.

Keep in mind that renting may appear cheaper upfront, but companies usually display multiple rental periods; therefore, the rental period you need your book may cost you more than purchasing the book. Check the price for an entire semester first and use that as your comparison price. Also, keep in mind what we’ve already learned about the pros and cons of getting a digital textbook.

At BookScouter, we help you get the best price on a textbook buyback by taking care of your book and providing FREE shipping from all vendors. No matter what you choose—buying or renting a printed copy or buying or renting a digital textbook—you can find the best price offer with us.