Rented & Used Textbooks Cheaper Than Digital Nearly Every Time


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In the debate on which is better, printed or digital, for textbooks, a new survey could have students reaching for those 30-pound tomes. Campusbooks.com compared prices for 1,000 textbooks across 12 textbook rental companies, 35 used book retailers, and 7 digital textbook creators. The result is that 92% of the time, renting or buying used is cheaper than digital.

Specifically, "it found that for about 81% of these books, renting a paper version was the cheapest available option. Used paper book prices beat out rental fees about 11% of the time, and ebooks, which like rentals are usually sold for use during a 130- or 180-day period, had the most affordable price in about 8% of cases," reports Mashable.

While many schools are considering the switch to tablet devices as a way to streamline classroom materials -- and indeed some major schools such as Princeton and Notre Dame have tested out tablet devices and ereaders -- it seems as though it might note be the most cost effective solution quite yet. It's a little counterintuitive, since we expect digital versions of things to be less expensive than their physical counterparts.

"Campusbooks.com CEO Jeff Cohen says that prices across all book formats shift frequently and that etextbooks tend to become the cheapest option for a given title when used books are harder to find," states Mashable.

So when physical books are harder to come by, ebooks will be the cheaper option, but (depending on your major) most book selections will probably be easy enough to find in printed form. The next question is whether or not you want to care that weight around. Sometimes the non-financial benefits justify the price. As more students and classrooms lean on tablet devices throughout the day, we may see a shift in these survey results.

For now, it's great to hear that renting and buying used are solutions that look the most beneficial, since they also tend to be the greenest. Going with used or borrowed reduces the environmental footprint of the book, and we get the most use out of the resources used to create it. It also uses zero electricity and no electronic device that can break or be too quickly replaced with a newer model. For now at least, renting or borrowing seems to be not only the cheaper solution most of the time, but also the more environmentally friendly solution most of the time.

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Tags: Books | Electronics