Instead of buying every textbook you need for class, textbook rentals have exploded over the years as an affordable alternative. There are now more than a dozen textbook rental websites as well as subscription services that, while not specifically for textbook rental, contain countless college-level textbooks in their online library.
Many students only realize that textbooks are very expensive shortly before they start college or once they arrive there. Often, colleges have their own bookstores where students can charge textbooks to their bursar account, which enables students to avoid paying cash immediately, but only adds the cost of textbooks to their tuition bill. On top of that, it is sometimes hard to find inexpensive used copies, and these are often unavailable when a course calls for a recently released textbook. Textbook rentals fill a very real need for struggling college students by allowing them to get textbooks at cheap prices that are returned to the bookstore at the conclusion of the course.
Read on for an extended list of some of the best textbook rental websites and textbook rental services currently available.
AbeBooks is a great resource for finding new and used textbooks, and has been around for quite a while, since 1996. AbeBooks also provides access to academic journals, which is a frequent source of publications by professors when they don’t write full-fledged textbooks. AbeBooks allows you to search by author, title, and ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is a 10 to 13-digit number that uniquely identifies every book published since 1970.
AbeBooks has an Advanced Search feature, which is especially useful, since you can set a range of prices (from a minimum dollar amount to a maximum) while searching for the textbook you want. Advanced search also allows you to search by various product types, such as books, maps, comics, manuscripts and paper collectibles, magazines and periodicals, photographs, and even sheet music. If you’re not looking for a specific textbook rental, you can choose the Browse Collections option to see a wide-ranging view of all the different books and publications AbeBooks has to offer. Lastly, AbeBooks also enables you to sell textbooks, whether it’s just a few books that you can get cash back for or you can become a full-on bookseller by creating an account, completing their sell application, and granting access to your inventory of books for people to purchase.
2. Amazon Textbook Rentals
One of the top sources for cheap textbook rentals is Amazon.com, specifically Amazon Rentals. Amazon makes it extremely easy to rent textbooks by simply searching the book you want and then selecting “Rent” on the product page. Amazon textbook rentals come with free two-day shipping if you’re a Prime Student member. You can return textbooks within 30 days for any reason, extend your textbook rental term, and get free return shipping once you’re done with the textbook.
Amazon textbook rentals work on rental terms of one semester at a time, although certain books can be rented on a monthly basis, for 30, 60 or 90 days. Amazon also provides an entire Manage Your Rental page, so you know when the textbook rental is due back and the possibility of extending the rental period. Textbook rental extensions operate on a 15-day basis or an entire additional semester basis. Monthly Amazon textbook rentals can also be extended on a 30-, 60-, or 90-day basis. All forms of textbook rental extension have respective incremental fees. With its huge economy of scale, college textbook rental from Amazon is a solid move in terms of affordability and selection.
3. Barnes & Noble Textbook Rentals
Despite facing major competition from online bookselling in recent years, Barnes & Noble is still an excellent competitor when it comes to textbooks. Barnes & Noble offers a wonderful selection of textbooks to buy and a great textbook rental service. Barnes & Noble offers some of the most competitive pricing, with a library of textbooks on par with what Amazon has to offer. Unlike Amazon, however, you will be charged shipping costs, whether you rent or buy your books. Though Barnes & Noble textbook rentals make the process easy by enabling users to print prepaid shipping labels to return textbook rentals; this is important because you cannot return textbook rentals to a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble store.
Like many other college textbook rental services, Barnes & Noble automatically extends your rental by 15 days if they haven’t received the textbooks by the rental return date. You’ll be charged for this, of course, and you’ll be charged an additional non-return fee if you don’t return it by the end of the 15-day extension period. Barnes & Noble offers the ability to purchase your textbook rentals, with the purchase price being the list prices minus any rental fees you’ve already paid.
BiggerBooks is an excellent college textbook rental website, offering the ability to both rent textbooks and buy heavily discounted textbooks. BiggerBooks offers textbook rentals in physical copy format or as eTextbooks. According to their site, BiggerBooks offers savings of up to 91% of typical list prices for books. You can also use BiggerBooks to sell your textbooks when the semester is over. They offer free shipping on orders of $59 or more, which is a pretty easy figure to hit. Also, BiggerBooks offers great flexibility with its textbook rental terms, allowing you to choose your own length of time for renting the textbooks you need. They also offer a textbook guarantee, in which you can return your purchases within 25 days with no questions asked.
CampusBooks is actually a textbook rental comparison site that aggregates the prices of college textbook rental websites, such as AbeBooks, Amazon, Chegg, and other services mentioned in this article. The comparison feature, especially its ability to tell you if it’s cheaper to buy or rent, makes CampusBooks an invaluable website for college textbook rentals, even if it’s not the direct supplier of books like AbeBooks or Amazon. Since the textbook rentals can come from various sources, shipping costs vary, but CampusBooks aggregates the shipping prices along with the rental or purchase prices for all the different textbook suppliers. The convenience of CampusBooks’ comparison and aggregator system makes it a wonderful tool for finding affordable textbook rentals.
6. Campus Book Rentals (CBR)
One of the original companies to offer textbook rentals, Campus Book Rentals (CBR) has been around since 2007. According to the site, Campus Book Rentals has saved students almost $228 million dollars since it was established. Like other textbook rental websites, Campus Book Rentals offers the ability to rent, buy, and sell your textbooks. After your rental period is up, you have the ability to purchase the textbook, with the price being the difference of what you already paid for the rental service and the list price of the book, similar to Barnes and Noble’s textbook rental purchasing policy.
One of the niftier features of Campus Book Rentals is the ability to search for textbooks in batches of multiple books, rather than searching for one book at a time. Although in order to take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to search by the ISBN identifier for the textbooks you want.
Campus Book Rentals offers three options for textbook rental terms: Semester (130 days), a quarter (85 days), or summer (55 days). Each of these rental periods also has a 21-day free return guarantee and a 15-day grace period in case you can’t return the textbook precisely on time. Campus Book Rentals offers rental extensions for periods of 15 or 30 days. You can also “re-rent” a textbook, which will be at a discounted price. When returning textbook rentals, Campus Book Rentals provides a prepaid shipping label.
Cengage offers digital course solutions and online textbooks, in addition to being a textbook rental service. In this way, Cengage is a bit like Chegg in that it provides user guides and course materials, on top of the ability to rent textbooks. With Cengage, you can get textbook rentals in physical bound book format or in digital format as eTextbooks. Cengage also offers an entire suite of learning platforms that both students and teachers can use. Some of these learning platforms include MindTap, WebAssign, SAM, CNOWv2, OWLv2, and Cengage Infuse, which include the ability to access eTextbooks as well as submitting assignments, viewing grades, and a lot more.
Cengage offers a service called Cengage Unlimited, which comes in two types of subscription plans: Cengage Unlimited eTextbooks and Cengage Unlimited eTextbooks + Online Learning Platforms; both subscription plans are on four-month terms, but the former costs $69.99 while the latter costs $124.99. As their names suggest, with both of these plans you get unlimited access to Cengage’s full online library of eTextbooks, but you also get at least four free hardcopy textbook rentals; however, you will have to pay $9.99 in shipping and handling for each of these free textbook rentals.
Started in 2001, CheapestTextbooks.com offers the ability to buy, sell, and rent textbooks. According to their site, you can save up to 70% when you rent textbooks. Like some other textbook rental websites, you can rent physical copies as well as rent eTextbooks. However, CheapestTextbooks.com is similar to CampusBooks: It is a comparison textbook rental website, which brings up the textbook suppliers, their rental terms, and rental prices when you search for a textbook; it is not the direct supplier of textbook rentals. This, however, doesn’t make CheapestTextbooks.com any less useful for textbook rentals. Its aggregator system categorizes textbook rentals both by cheapest price and by length of rental terms, providing shipping cost information and discounts on rentals as well. Also like CampusBooks, CheapestTextbooks.com will tell you whether it’s cheaper to buy or rent a textbook.
Chegg is one of the most widely-recognized names in the textbook industry, for both textbook purchases and textbook rentals. It has earned a strong reputation for being one of the best new, used, and rental textbook services available, and understandably so. According to their site, you can save up to 90% off textbooks using Chegg, calculated based on the savings compared to the textbook list price.
With Chegg, you can get textbook rentals in a physical copy format or as an eTextbook. Chegg offers a 21-day satisfaction guarantee in which you can return physical textbooks at no cost for whatever reason. When you rent textbooks from Chegg, you can get a four week free trial of Chegg Study, which is an app that allows you to add courses, provides study tools like finding and creating flash cards, post questions, and even take a picture of a problem you have, take practice tests, and scan barcodes for textbook solutions. You can get free standard shipping on orders over $35, which is a fairly easy price to meet with most textbook rentals. If you decide to rent textbooks as eTextbooks, Chegg’s eReader is a great tool for highlighting, bookmarking, and taking notes.
If you need a textbook rental for longer than expected, you can contact Chegg before the due date and get a free extension. Returning textbook rentals is also free, utilizing their prepaid shipping labels. Chegg’s textbook rental terms are for quarters or semester time periods. Interestingly, Chegg openly says it is fine to highlight physical textbooks, but to refrain from writing in them.
As with many other textbook rental websites, eCampus claims you can save up to 90% when you rent new and used textbooks. The company offers free shipping both ways on any textbook order over $35, with rental terms coming in three options: Quarter, semester, or short-term. What’s cool about eCampus textbook rentals is that they offer an eWards reward system that gives loyal customers a dollar credit for every three points earned. Some examples of how you can earn eWards points include: earning two points per dollar when you complete a textbook purchase; earning three points per dollar when you rent a textbook; earning one point per dollar sold when you sell textbooks; earning 250 points by referring a friend to purchase, plus several other ways of earning points not mentioned here.
When you search for textbooks to rent on eCampus, you’ll see information on the rental price, the purchase used and new prices, eTextbook price, and typical time it takes for shipping. It also shows you how much you can save compared to the list price. You can also get textbook rentals in eTextbook format, which is done through their partnership with VitalSource and the VitalSource Bookshelf app.
Knetbooks claims you can save up to 85% when you rent textbooks through their service. Equally important is that you get free shipping for orders and returns. Knetbooks offers discounts for textbook rentals when you rent several items at a time. Textbook rental terms are available in three options: Semester, quarter, or short-term, with the ability to extend your textbook rental at any time. When you search for a textbook on Knetbooks, you’ll see the textbook rental prices for each type of rental term, as well as the due dates, and the amount of money you save compared to the list price.
In order to extend your textbook rental, you simply log in to your Knetbooks.com account and choose an extension period of 15, 30, 60, 90, or 130 days from the original due date. To get a refund for a textbook rental, you’ll need to mail it back within 25 days of the original ship date. However, if you rented a textbook on the short-term option, then you’ll have only 15 days to mail it back. You won’t get a full refund because there is a 15% restocking fee in addition to the original and return shipping costs.
RedShelf is a textbook rental service that offers rentals in eTextbook format. There are no textbook rentals in bound book physical format. However, RedShelf’s eBook library is vast and comes with a variety of benefits. These include the ability to read the textbook anywhere, take digital notes and access study tools, view the eTextbook in fixed PDF format, view the eTextbook in reflowable format (EPUB), utilize text-to-speech compatibility so you can have the book read to you, and get access to a portion of the eTextbook offline as well as the ability to print a portion of the content, though these portions vary depending on the textbook. RedShelf’s textbook rental periods include 180-day digital rental, 365-day digital rental, 1,460-day (four-year) digital rental, and lifetime access.
Scribd isn’t strictly a college textbook rental website; it’s a subscription-based service that provides access to a vast library of books, monographs, articles, journals, audiobooks, and sheet music. Within Scribd’s large collection of books and documents, you can often find college textbooks. Scribd offers a 14-day free trial and then costs $11.99 per month after that, with the ability to cancel any time. Since Scribd is completely digital, there are no physical textbook rentals. However, their eBook reading platform allows for highlighting, bookmarking, note taking, and even translating.
TextbookRush states that you can save as much as 90% off the retail price of textbooks on their site and you’ll get free shipping on all orders over $35. TextbookRush allows you to buy, sell, or rent textbooks, and includes a textbook trade-in program in which they will cover shipping and pay for your textbooks via cash, PayPal, or store credit. TextbookRush offers a 30-day money back guarantee, which is longer than the guarantee period for several textbook rental websites already mentioned. TextbookRush provides free return shipping labels for when you send back your textbook rentals.
TextbookRush provides textbook rental extensions for a period of 10 days at a cost of $9.99 plus tax. You can choose a textbook rental extension at any time during your rental period, but you can extend textbook rentals only once. TextbookRush offers textbook rentals in eTextbook format, though extensions are not available when you rent eTextbooks. What is good about eTextbooks from TextbookRush is the ability to access them both online and offline, the latter by downloading VitalSource Bookshelf to your computer.
Originally, TextbookX just provided textbook purchases and selling. Now, however, TextbookX offers textbook rentals, sourcing the textbooks from various suppliers. In order to access TextbookX’s textbook rental service, you’ll need to make an account online at their website. Because TextbookX gets their textbook rentals from numerous sources, they don’t have a uniform rental return process as this will depend on which supplier they get the textbooks from. In order for you to know the return policies for your textbook rentals, you have to go to your online account at TextbookX. This also means that the textbook rental terms offered by TextbookX vary depending on where they source the textbook from.
ValoreBooks is another excellent college textbook rental service, with savings of over 90% on the list price of many of its books. Valore allows users to rent textbooks as well as buy and sell them. Valore provides a 30-day money back guarantee. It should be noted, however, that ValoreBooks sources its textbook rentals from different textbook providers, such as TextbookRush for example, thus making this website an aggregator of textbook rental services rather than the direct supplier of textbooks. Still, like other textbook rental aggregator sites, ValoreBooks provides you with a large list of marketplace prices for both used and new versions of the textbooks you want. To return your textbook rentals, you’ll print out a prepaid shipping label, which will become available 45 days after your rental order has been placed. However, if you rent multiple textbooks from ValoreBooks, you must return them individually, not all in the same box, because they source textbooks from multiple providers.
VitalSource offers textbook rentals but solely in eTextbook format. You can rent textbooks for periods of 120 days, 180 days, one year, or lifetime. Since their textbooks are in digital format, you can get beneficial features like instant access to your book once you’ve rented it, have your textbook read aloud, get access to built-in study tools, and the ability to access and read your eTextbooks offline. VitalSource provides users with its Bookshelf platform to read its eTextbooks, both online and offline, and comes with features like highlighters, flash cards, and study groups.
VitalSource has a 14-day return policy from the date you purchased the textbook, but there are some strings attached. For instance, you cannot return an eTextbook for a refund if you have viewed or printed, in total, more than 20% of the eTextbook. For bulk orders, you have 30 calendar days to return an item from the date you purchased it.
Why Textbook Rentals Are a Major Advantage
Renting textbooks is an option that many are unaware of until they visit their college bookstore or the bookstore's website for the first time. When most people find out about this option, they find that it's an excellent alternative to paying high prices for textbooks that might not be covered by their financial aid. The books are in good condition and can be kept out typically for at least the length of the semester.
The Bottom Line on Cheap Textbook Rentals
Because there are so many companies that provide textbook rentals, most college students will do well to shop around. Even though comparison shopping takes an extra few minutes, it is definitely worth the extra time in the long run. The savings that come with renting textbooks are also worth the effort. After all, the opportunity to save several hundred dollars over the school year is one that should not be missed out on.