To buy or not to buy? Purchasing textbooks could be better than renting

Kernel Opinion SIG

With the fall semester starting back up, most students will be required by their professors to acquire textbooks at soaring prices. In doing so, many students are faced with a seemingly trivial yet important choice: Should I buy or rent?

In many cases, there is a decent price difference between buying books and renting them. While not everyone may be able to afford to make a choice on the issue, if you have the finances to choose, I see no advantage to renting over buying.

Many students who have an exams to take, like the MCAT and LSAT, later on in their college career tend to prefer to buy their books so they can keep them for study purposes because these tests can be vital to their academic career and can cover content learned semesters in the past.  

The most apparent advantage that I see to buying and keeping textbooks is the classical notion that in most cases, knowledge is power. As corny as that sounds, it is why we are all here. The primary goal of attending a university and getting a degree is to acquire knowledge and skill sets that will allow us to be informed in the world and in our career paths.

Since most majors are conducive to a career path by nature, the knowledge needed to acquire that degree is inherently valuable and can be called upon at any time after obtaining the degree.

For example, keeping a journalism textbook could one day be advantageous for me because it is directly pertinent to my career path. At any time in my career, I could call upon the information in the textbook to refresh myself on style choices and instruction on a task I may no longer be as familiar with, which could in turn increase the quality of my work.

Certain textbooks could also help in future classes. Though I do think it is important to say that thorough note taking can obtain similar results, most people don’t or can’t take notes on all the content in every textbook and there is no way of knowing what could be important semesters or even years down the road. In this scenario, it is helpful to be able to go to your shelf, grab your old textbook and refresh your mind on a topic.

Academic benefits aside, most textbooks have some kind of resale value. Sometimes, the resale value of a given textbook could exceed the difference in price that renting offers. So, you could potentially get more money back than you could save by renting the book.

Lastly, in many cases the price difference between renting and buying isn’t much, so why not spend the few extra bucks and own your book?

I think it reasonable to conclude that buying books is more advantageous to students who are in a position to do so.