Renting or buying, many students now go online for their textbooks

Even those looking to sell their textbooks find online a good option.


Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

University of Florida undergraduate Kylie Durrance saved $155 on her managerial accounting textbook this semester - and all it took was the click of a button.

Increasingly, students are staying home and searching the Web when looking for textbooks instead of making the trek to the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore.

With the rise of Web sites such as Craigslist and Chegg, buying or renting textbooks online at affordable prices has never been easier for students such as Durrance, a 19-year-old finance major.

Traditional bookstores such as Barnes & Noble already are feeling the heat. The company, which is the largest owner of college bookstores in the U.S., recently started its own textbook rental service because of the competition.

"College students are all about being cheap. I think they'd rather shop online than pay more at an actual store," Durrance said. "People will see that online book buying is a better value."

Some of the local brick-and-mortar bookstores that have started rentals provide students with the original price and then the amount they are guaranteed to receive when returning the textbook. Online rentals, however, work differently. For one flat fee you keep a textbook until the end of a semester. You aren't given any money back afterward, but the original price of the textbook is significantly lower. If a textbook is not returned, the company charges you the full price of the book.

Up and running since 2007, Chegg, the self-professed No. 1 textbook rental site, offers free shipping and a semester guarantee. If your rental period ends before your semester does, Chegg automatically extends the rental time for free. If you aren't satisfied with the quality of your book, return it, and Chegg says it will immediately ship you another copy. The company says it also plants a tree for each book you rent.

This semester was Durrance's first time renting textbooks online, and the experience was such a positive one she isn't looking back.

"I prefer renting them because then I don't have to worry about selling them and possibly losing on my investment," she said. "I'm not losing anything by using it because Chegg pays for shipping, and they're guaranteed to take it back."

Textbooks are just a small part of the online local classifieds at Craigslist.com, but UF students such as Chad Bonivtch, 21, take full advantage of the free ad space.

Bonivtch posted his statistics textbook to the site, and soon it sold for $60.

"It's relatively easy," he said.

Founded in 1994, the e-commerce company Amazon.com is focused on being as green as possible. With frustration-free packaging and less package waste, online shopping is more environmentally friendly than traditional retail, Amazon contends.

Searching is made easy, as you can research textbooks by title, author or price.

UF student Kimberly Barton, 20, used to buy her books from the university's bookstore. Now, she searches Amazon.com instead.

Her books arrived in good condition before the semester started, she said, and all it took was a little online research.

"A lot of the younger students really don't know about it," she said. "But once they figure it out, I don't think they'll go back."

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