Textbooks: Buy or rent?

With every new semester, students scramble to find the cheapest way to prepare for their classes, and the make-or-break expense is always books. The Liberty University bookstore allows students the convenience of holding their books immediately. However, many students wonder which is actually cheaper: buying new, buying used or renting.

According to Liberty University bookstore manager Ellen Mayes, students have to consider a number of financial factors when purchasing books. Initial cost, possible reuse and buyback value are some factors that can increase or decrease the appeal of a price tag. At face value, renting is the financially sound option, but the aforementioned factors can change that.

“Renting is a viable option for any student wanting to save money up-front. Renting helps ease the initial outlay of money at the beginning of the semester—a time when students are particularly strapped for funds,” Mayes said.

According to Mayes, students can save more than 50 percent off a new book price by renting, but they have to return them at the end of the semester rather than sell them. Buying used books is the next best option. Although they tend to be in less than mint condition, a used textbook often provides the best value for students.

“Our research shows that it is cheaper to purchase the cheapest used copy and then sell it back for the highest buyback value then it is to rent those same books 95 percent of the time,” Jeff Sherwood, CEO of bigwords.com, said.

In this way, Sherwood encourages a purely economic approach to purchasing books by minimizing loss and maximizing gain. This sounds simple, but it is a sound strategy if a book is no longer needed. Students can use online textbook resources like bigwords.com as a comprehensive, price comparison search engine.

This might leave some people wondering why anyone would want to buy a new textbook.
“Many customers prefer new because of the value they place on that textbook and their desire to maintain an academic library or resource,” Mayes said. “Additionally, many custom titles and books with consumable components are a better value when purchased new.”

Both Sherwood and Mayes encourage a long-term approach to purchasing textbooks. While initial prices may seem attractive in the case of rentals, students are encouraged to consider future factors. According to Mayes, buying used books will save at least 25 percent, but could actually save up to 75 percent, according to Sherwood.

The overall factors prove buying used books to be the most financially viable option. As long as students do not mind paying a higher initial cost compared to renting or having a more work-worn book, used books are worth it. Using an online resource like bigwords.com can help ensure an even lower cost when buying used books. However, the bookstore can provide convenient pricing and availability as well as acceptance of Flames Cash to help ease the financial strain.


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