Renting textbooks vs. buying: pay less now or get money back later?

By Garrett Bonistalli

Selling back textbooks bought earlier in the semester has traditionally been an early Christmas gift to almost all college students. However, that may be different this year for some students who rented textbooks at the beginning of the semester.

Renting textbooks has begun to spread nationally, and UK’s campus is a part of the new trend. All four major bookstores near campus provide students with an option of renting their textbooks, instead of buying them.

By renting textbooks, students save upfront by paying nearly half the price they would if they bought the books.

Students who rent textbooks won’t get any money when they return the books like they would if they had bought them.

“I would say the main benefit is the cash involved, the transaction is less,” said Chris Laurence, Kennedy Bookstore assistant manager. “But (students) have to keep in mind that 16 weeks later, they won’t get any cash back. They forfeit that by paying less on the front end of the transaction. Renting depends on the student’s desire. Some want to save up front, some want to get money in the end to buy.”

One UK student furthered that idea.

“I think it’s great because a lot of my professors don’t even use the textbooks that are on the syllabus,” senior political science major Steve Smith said, “so it saves me a lot of money in the long-run because renting can be about half the price that buying is.

“Plus, there are times when you try to sell your book back and you can’t even do it because a new edition is coming out the following semester, so you’re stuck with it.”

Students may sometimes be forced to buy books because not every book is available to be rented.

“A lot of books have software with them and you can’t rent it,” said David Wade, Wildcat Textbooks general manager. “If something has a code in it, it’s a onetime user deal, so something like that you can’t rent. And we had a lot of classes that were continuation, so you wouldn’t want to rent those.”

Because of the number of textbooks that are available for rental, the number of textbooks rented compared to textbooks sold wasn’t as high as Wade expected.

“The first year is kind of a pilot program,” Wade said. “We selected around 100 titles … It’s not as many as thought it might be, probably five percent.”

Some students may feel that it can benefit them to keep a textbook as a resource, especially when it involves their major.

“I rented all my textbooks that weren’t for my major this last fall but bought all the ones that were [for my major] because I feel that I will still reference them in the future,” said Scott Dvorak, a decision and information sciences junior.

For students who rented textbooks and will need to return them this week, the process is simple.

“Since this is the first time, we haven’t really gone through a cycle yet because we have nothing to gauge it against,” Laurence said. “It should be clear though, students bring in their book and they’re on their way.”