By Lauren Diaz
As a finance student at the University of Georgia, Nathan Moon is required to purchase textbooks that retail upwards of $120.
Rather than purchasing them, however, Moon rents them through rental sites that help students save as much as 90 percent of the publisher’s price.
“If I were to buy all of my books every semester, it would be close to $500,” Moon said. “If I rent them, I can stay within my budget and don’t have to spend a large portion of my money.”
Despite receiving financial aid and working part-time for UGA Campus Transit, which has some of the highest paying positions on campus, Moon said he is able to stay within budget by saving hundreds of dollars through renting textbooks.
This semester, Moon said he saved a total of $406.19 by renting “An Introduction to Community and Public Health” and “Financial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods and Uses.” Moon said the publisher price for new versions of the textbooks was $134.95 and $299.95, respectively. Instead, he paid $28.71 to rent both from Amazon.
According to the College Board, students were estimated to spend an average of $1,240 on textbooks and supplies between 2018 and 2019. Textbook rental companies lower these expenses by offering student-friendly prices for textbook rentals. These prices are often based on a supply and demand model, said AJ Goldman, vice president of required materials at Chegg Inc., a company that offers textbook rentals and additional services.
“If you look at January 1 and track the industry pricing for rental books, they are as cheap as can be for the first days of semester,” Goldman said. “As everyone starts to run out of inventory, the prices slowly start to go up.”
To avoid higher rental prices,Goldman encouraged students to order as soon as they know their classes. Students will generally see better pricing across the industry, depending on the stock of books available and the demand from students.
These prices draw students to rent textbooks online as opposed to their campus bookstore, where Moon said rentals are more expensive. He also prefers the advantage of skipping the long lines at the start of the semester. With Amazon Prime Student, Moon is able to get two-day shipping through a yearly subscription of $59, a 50 percent discount from the traditional Prime membership.
Renting textbooks also prevents students from purchasing textbooks that will remain unused after the semester ends. Although there are options that allow students to sell them, companies often have low buyback prices. Moon said he experienced this first-hand when he tried to sell his textbooks, which cost $390, and was offered $15 in return.
“It’s not worth buying textbooks because you don’t get your money back if you try to resell them,” Moon said. “After I paid to ship the textbooks, I only profited $8.”
While students save a considerable amount from renting textbooks, it does not eliminate the costs of supplementary materials that must be purchased. Moon said many of his classes require students to purchase access codes for WebAssign, an online homework application.
“If the class requires an access code, renting is not the best option,” Moon said. “A lot of the times when you buy an access code, it comes with the online textbook.”
Renting textbooks allows Moon to save money and budget towards purchasing supplementary materials. As for the rest of the money he saves from renting textbooks, Moon allocates it towards his daily iced coffee from Starbucks, a luxury item absent from the monthly budget of many other students.
Lauren Diaz is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.