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College Textbook Rentals: An Interesting Way to Save Money

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by cyberacoustics

I know that it seem that I have been on a college kick lately, but this can really save you some bucks. We all know that college textbooks can be really expensive: up to $150 each for new hardcover versions—or even more! When you factor in having several classes, it’s not surprising that the used textbook market is booming. But did you know that the textbook rental market is also on the rise? That’s right, rented e-textbooks.

With the popularity of tablets and e-readers, and many distributors starting to rent e-books, this idea has spread to e-textbooks as well. While of course, there's not a demand for used e-textbooks, several places let you rent a digital textbook for a certain period of time, and they’re less expensive than buying used. In July, Amazon began renting e-textbooks, which helped to popularize the concept.

Students can read them not just on their Amazon Kindles, but also Mac computers, PCs, and even smartphones and tablets! The rental options are incredibly flexible (letting you chose to rent from anywhere between 30 and 360 days). And if you miss the ability to make notes in the margins of your textbook, Amazon’s got you covered: you can annotate the book and even access your notes after the rental period has ended.

CengageBrain is a physical textbook vendor that’s recently begun selling e-textbooks. The company relies on e-textbook vendor CourseSmart's reader app for Android and iOS devices. Additionally, you can use your browser to read the e-textbooks on almost any computer. Similar to Amazon, you can make notes in the books, and even print individual pages (which may defeat the purpose, but still).

Chegg is like CengageBrain, in that it was a former physical textbook rental service, but has added an e-textbook department. The books are available in a streaming online format and browser-accessible, so you need to be online to read them. You can highlight them, and take notes, but you can only open a book on one computer at a time.

Kno only rents e-textbooks, and you can access them three ways: on your iPad, through the company’s website, or through Facebook. Don’t tell college students, but yes, it appears that you CAN study and be on Facebook at the same time. All books are searchable, and when you read them on the iPad, you can create bookmarks, or even share material with other friends that are on Kno.

A few other options you consider are BookRenter, OverDrive, and even the collegiate institution you’re attending. Any way you can save a buck these days is worth a try.

-Steve Murphy, CA CFO


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