When I was a university student I was price conscious about everything I did, from entertainment to food to (obviously) my textbooks. This is one of the great constants, we know that price is the number one most important issue for students when buying their textbooks.
If you want to ensure you are paying the lowest possible amount for your textbooks you need to decide if you plan on keeping that textbook. If the book is in one of your core subjects and doesn't change a huge amount from year to year you might want to keep the book to reference once you get into the job market (ie: Statistics or Calculus) but if it's for an elective you are probably going to sell it at at the end of the semester. Once you decide this you can chose what your options are and students essentially have three options:
- Buy their book and keep it for reference
- Buy their book and sell it at the end of the semester
- Rent their book
Buying the book and keeping it is easy, search BookFinder.com and pick the lowest price. Follow these tips and you are golden.
If you are not keeping the book you need to consider the total cost of buying and selling your textbook and compare that final price to the rental cost. Because really a rental book is just the same as one that you bought and sold, the rental company just wraps the whole final cost into one transaction for you.
For example lets look at Chemistry: The Central Science by Bruce Bursten.
Today I could buy this book used from Alibris for $72.00 or New from AbeBooks for $75.47 or to rent the book for a semester it would cost $75.33. So even with just this information, you would buy.
Now if you include the buyback price for this book (AbeBooks will give $80.25), you find that buying the book you MAKE $4.78 and if you rent it will COST you $75.33.
This is a fairly extreme example, and the buyback price will probably shift between now and the end of the semester but it shows that you have to compare apples to apples when looking at textbook rental. And even if the buyback price goes down by $20 you are still saving.
This is NOT to say that rentals are bad, there are many instances that a textbook rental will save you money and is a great option but if you want to save the money you have to do the math.