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What Does It Mean to “Rent a Textbook”?

Renting a textbook means paying a nominal fee to borrow a textbook for a particular time frame. Textbook rentals are usually offered in three time frames; semester, quarter and session. At the end of the textbook rental time frame, the student prints out a shipping label and returns the textbook. Most of the time the student won’t pay anything for shipping the textbook back to the store. Renting a textbook is typically quick, efficient and one of the cheaper ways students can get their required textbooks.

Stack of textbook rentals

Advantages of Renting a Textbook

1. Price

It is almost always cheaper to rent a textbook compared to purchasing a new one. That changes when you are comparing used textbooks to rental textbooks. In those cases, the prices can be much closer. Most of the time though, a textbook rental is still cheaper than a used textbook.

2. Convenience

Textbook rentals allow students to conveniently and easily get the textbooks they need before the semester starts. In addition, returning the textbook rental is usually fairly easy. Simply go to the store the textbook was rented from and print out a label and return it in the box it was shipped in.

3. Flexibility

Most textbook rental stores will allow you to add on more days at a minimal fee if you need the textbook rental for a longer period of time. In addition, if you determine you would like to keep the textbook, you usually can buy it for a nominal fee.

Disadvantages of Renting a Textbook

1. No Access Card

A lot of textbooks nowadays come with online access cards that are required by many college courses. Unfortunately, textbook rentals don’t usually come with access cards, because they are usually only available with new textbooks. The workaround is that you buy one from the secondary market or from the publishers website. does offer students the ability to buy access cards from the secondary market. Simply type in the book’s “Title” plus “Edition” plus the words “Access Card” into the search bar. These access cards that are for sale are typically from students that bought a new version of the textbook, but never used the access card because the professor for the class did not require them to do so. So it’s important that you ask your professor if he/she will require the access card for the course. If they don’t require it, this is a non issue for you when renting a textbook.

2. Limited Ability to Write in a Textbook Rental

Since you don’t own the textbook rental, you can’t typically write in it. A few minor marks are okay, but anything more than that may incur a penalty. Also, any damage to the book may require you to pay a penalty unless you paid extra for the textbook insurance.

3. No Resale Value

There is no resale value for a textbook rental because you don’t own it. This might seem obvious, but it’s important to note if you are on the fence about renting a textbook or buying a used textbook. If you were to buy a used textbook, you have the ability to sell it at the end of the semester. In fact, has a sell back textbook price comparison. Many students have reported that they have made money buying used textbooks and then selling them with the sell back textbook price comparison. Granted the level of hassle is higher than just renting a textbook.

Rent a Textbook Conclusion

Renting a textbook can be a great way to save money and have convenience and flexibility when acquiring a textbook you need for your course. However, it’s important to consider the added cost of an access card (if needed), limited availability to write in them and the fact that they have no resale value.

Regardless of whether you want to rent a textbook, buy a textbook or sell a textbook, has a price comparison for all three. No matter what your option is, you’ll get a great price.

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.