Textbook rentals vs e-textbooks: a harder choice than you realize


Traditional textbooks purchased for college classes could cost tens or even hundreds of dollars. Added to the cost of tuition and other campus expenses, regular printed textbooks bought for keeps began to create problems for students with limited financial resources. Academic publishing innovators developed alternative ways of providing course texts to students that were more cost effective, namely textbook rentals and more recently, e-textbooks. Although either might seem like a viable option instead of the more expensive printed textbooks, college students and their families should thoughtfully compare the pros and cons before choosing which to buy.


Textbook Rentals

College course textbooks can be rented from the campus bookstore. Students can usually find a wide selection of required, recommended, or supplemental texts to rent instead of buy. A rental agreement will be signed by the student to clarify the terms of use.

Books can be picked up the same day and must be returned by the date indicated in the agreement, typically at the end of the semester or within a week or so afterward. The books must be in good condition so that other students can rent them the following semester. Rented texts are generally cheaper than printed textbooks, although there may be exceptions. 


E-textbook demand has grown exponentially across the country and around the world. With so much of what we do going digital, it makes sense that college course materials would likewise offer an electronic option for needed textbooks. The most primary thing is that you have to know how to design a book cover perfectly, as this matters a lot in the popularity of a book.

E-books can be purchased as part of a course materials package in some cases. The e-book version or format might differ slightly from the required print version, if both are made available for the course. Like rentals, the digital textbooks are often cheaper than the print version.

If cost is the determining factor, either of these options may be preferable to the hardbound textbooks of yesteryear that are still being used. However, let’s look at additional comparison points.


The rental textbook is somewhat eco-conscious, since it is perhaps more likely to be reused than a traditional textbook bought by students, who may hold on to them for years.

Electronic textbooks, however, are optimally environmentally friendly, since they do not require the harvesting of trees or other natural materials to make paper, ink, and related textbook items, like packaging. They leave no digital footprint in their wake, and no recycling is required, except to remove them from the computer when they are no longer needed.


A rented textbook is more convenient than a print textbook, since you won’t have to hold on to it between semesters or after graduation. When the rental agreement expires, they are no longer your concern for storage or future use. Rented textbooks can go with you anywhere in a book bag or by just carrying them in your arms, without need for electronic access. However, their weight can add up quickly if you have several, so you may have to find ways to leave some books in your car or in a locker during classes when they are not needed.

E-textbooks are even more convenient. They are accessible with a touch of the keypad and can be safely stored online without taking up room or needing care to keep them clean. Just use them for the coursework and forget about them the rest of the time. There is no need to stack, sort, organize, or get rid of e-books in the same way as a tangible rental textbook requires. Wherever you have Internet access, you can use your online e-books.

Much depends on a student’s preferred study style. If they prefer using electronic devices like a computer, iPad, or cellphone, they might prefer using e-textbooks, since that is a comfortable and familiar approach.

However, students who use less technology or have limited access to the Internet or wifi may want to use rented textbooks that they can access anytime. Some people don’t like reading on a digital monitor all the time, so they likely will prefer regular textbooks.

Either way, rental textbooks and electronic textbooks are here to stay. They can make life easier for many students who don’t want the hassle of buying textbooks to own, especially those they will never use again after the semester ends. Fortunately, there are several valid choices for every type of student. To explore these and other textbook options, visit a college bookstore dealer like Booksrun.com