I saw a Tweet roll by last week that mentioned a mother who had a $1000 bill for textbooks. I think I actually blinked twice to confirm. It was true, she’d spent a grand on textbooks for her daughter’s first semester of college!
Chloe of @ChloeCardash had a high bill, too, Tweeting, “Spent $500 on school textbooks #highwayrobbery.” And while not as transparent in the final cost, @IyanaNicole is handing over an entire week’s pay, Tweeting, “Yay my last paycheck of the summer is getting spent on these damn textbooks. Yea nothing better than that.”
I don’t recall ever spending more than $500 in a single semester, which even 10 years ago felt painfully high. It wasn’t until my last two years of college that buying books online really became a thing, and then I discovered used textbooks on Amazon. My textbook bill dropped to a mere couple hundred dollars each semester, and on a student-loan driven budget, that was a major win.
Amazon was my go-to for selling textbooks, too. I was always astonished when I’d spend $75 on a brand new textbook in August, and then have the bookstore offer me $12 after finals. At Amazon, I was able to recoup almost all of my expense selling the book myself.
The leading online book retailer is stepping up again for college students, launching a textbook rental service just in time for fall semester. Remaining competitive with other book rental services, like Chegg, Amazon will cover the shipping cost for the books’ return when you’re finished with them. If you have an Amazon Prime account for students, the purchase shipping is free, too! All you’re left to pay is the cost of the book that Amazon advertises at up to a 70 percent discount.
Availability of textbooks might be better found at a competing store, though. We took one of our intern’s book lists for this semester (which she’d already rented in its entirety at Chegg) to compare price and availability and couldn’t find a single title available on Amazon. Before you search, Amazon disclaims, “Some textbooks on Amazon.com may not be eligible for Textbook Rental.” In our case, that meant all textbooks.
Before you check the used book stack for the least abused in the bunch, or shell out full price for a plastic-wrapped new edition, we strongly recommend pricing your books through a rental service. “I cut [my total cost] down to $121 by renting used books for the semester,” @BaileyBlair told us on Twitter. We can’t help but wonder if the mom who dropped $1000 at the bookstore couldn’t have saved herself enough coin to buy books for several upcoming semesters.
Amazon stays competitive with a 130-day rental period, which is standard in the industry. They also allow you to renew for an extra fee. If books aren’t returned to Amazon by the required date customers are charged in full based on the price on the day of rental.
At @TatiyanaDLH is one college freshmen who stands to save a lot of money over the next four or five years by finding solutions like Amazon and Chegg rentals, especially after spending nearly $800 on books this semester. “$789.46 freshman yr! I’m still salty!!,” she Tweeted.