Anyone who has attended college in recent years knows the horrors of the campus bookstore. You probably wandered in, still recovering from the tuition you just paid to attend class, with your long list of texts required for purchase. No one wants to be confronted by a piqued professor because they were unprepared for class on the first day, so the easiest thing to do is collect the materials at the convenient on-campus bookstore, right? Well, as many students have discovered, textbooks at your campus bookstore are so expensive it may feel like someone is playing a joke on you. If it's just paper and ink bound together, why do companies charge so much? Well, the short answer is because they can.
To be fair, large, colourful, glossy, illustrated textbooks do cost more to make than the typical black and white novel. All that ink can surely add up but does it explain the difference between $15 and $100 dollars? No, prices are inflated for a different reason. A textbook doesn't have a lot of competition. If a fast-food restaurant charged sky high prices for a burger and fries it would go out of business pretty quickly because consumers would just go across the street to satisfy their needs. That sort of competition is what encourages low prices in the fast food industry. If you are assigned a specific book, you really don't have the luxury of shopping around for a lower priced alternative. Your professor assigns the book but it is his job to pick the one that will be the best resource not the one with the lowest price.
Because textbook companies are free to inflate the prices without really losing customers they go ahead and do exactly that. However, there is one bastion of hope for your thinning wallet. Textbook rental online is a popular choice for the money conscious student, but is the best option?
The biggest and most obvious advantage is the price. You will pay a fraction of the price that you would for its retail counterpart. You can often rent a book for around a fourth of its full retail price. Expensive books that are listed for $250 on your local bookstore's shelves can probably be rented for around $60 from a good website. These prices are definitely attractive to anyone who is on a budget but does the price outweigh the disadvantages?
There are a few reasons why a person might think twice about renting a book, even though it costs so much less.
- You have to rent and order a book with enough time for it to get to class by the first day. If you procrastinate, you may be forced to go out and buy copy from a nearby store.
- Sometimes rental companies only have past versions of a textbook that may be outdated. Some professors don't mind if you use an old version but if you see one it's a good idea to ask just to make sure you are on the same page.
- Purchased textbooks can often be sold back to campus book stores for a little extra cash at the end of the semester. On the other hand, it is usually for a fraction of what you paid for it.
- If the book is damaged, overly marked or is returned, late heavy fees might apply.
There are other options aside from renting including buying used books or electronic copies but renting is still the cheapest option. Despite the disadvantages, renting may be the best option if the bottom line is you chief concern. Saving money in college is essential and this is a clear way to do it.