Renting textbooks

Bellevue College students, having long suffered the high prices of new-edition textbooks, are increasingly choosing a new option that saves time, energy and space: renting. Both BC’s own bookstore and websites like are now offering a selection of textbooks to rent for a fraction of the price of purchase. It’s no wonder that book sales are dropping off as text-lending becomes more commonplace.  However, some people have their doubts about whether this is a change for the better or worse.

Some students feel that holding on to textbooks can be useful later on.  “I would not say that renting textbooks is good for classes in your major,” says Joey Chemis, a student of actuarial science.  “You don’t know—often in studying for my actuarial exams or just helping people with their homework […] I had to rely on old mathematics books.  I am glad I purchased and kept every one of my math books.”  College coursework is a valuable and an expensive investment, and the resources found in the textbooks may be the only ties back to the education purchased and toiled over in years down the road, especially in a field of study one plans on utilizing in their career.

There is the financial question too.  While renting course-material is cheaper than buying it outright, book-buybacks and reselling used texts on sites like Craigslist can compensate for the difference.   Sage Kelly, a student of Environmental Science, shared that buying textbooks was better than renting because she was able to purchase her books used and resell them at prices close to what she bought them for. “If you bought it used in the first place, you’re spending less money when you buy then when you rent.”  Not to mention the fact that there is no need to worry about due dates for rentals, which can often coincide with the busiest week of the quarter—finals.

Others say that renting actually saves money, which outweighs any benefits of keeping books.  For example, it’s nearly impossible to buy a new or recent edition textbook and expect to sell it back for a similar price.  Similarly, some textbooks go out of use by professors (often because a new edition came out), and the textbook becomes nearly worthless as a result.  In either case, renting saves substantial amounts of money.  Christopher Pascale, a contributing author for the consumer-education site Suite101, saved over $1,200 in a span of only ten textbooks by renting them instead of buying.  “Using these numbers alone, if a student was able to rent just half of the textbooks she needed over the course of 120 credit hours, she could save approximately $2,500!”  If students aren’t planning on returning to their books in the future, the savings of 50 to 80 percent on course material could easily outweigh the lost privileges of underlining and highlighting the pages.  Given that most classes use relatively new texts, students are more likely to save by renting than by purchasing.

Regardless of the pros and cons, one thing is certain—renting is on the rise.  According to the Book Industry Study Group, 11 percent of students nation-wide now rent their books.  “I’ve had nothing but good experiences renting textbooks,” says John Dazey, a Philosophy major at BC and aspiring lawyer.  The trend seems to indicate that his sentiment reflects most other BC student’s views on the question of whether to purchase or rent textbooks.