College books are expensive, but only if you pay the retail price. Before you go out and spend thousands of dollars on brand new books, check out these websites for some better deals.
Chegg: The Overall Best Option
Chegg is a study hub for students, and it also offers book rentals. Its rental services aren’t perfect, but it checks enough of the right boxes to make it a top recommendation.
For example, if you order a book from Chegg, you’ll instantly get access to the ebook until you receive the book. The return policy is also friendly; you can return the book you rented within 21-days for a full refund minus shipping.
Chegg lets you rent eBooks for 90, 120, or 180 days; you can only rent physical books by the semester or quarter.
And as a bonus, if you have some old textbooks lying around, you can even sell them to Chegg for a decent price.
Amazon Book Rentals: Great Value with a Couple of Downsides
Amazon’s vast scale and enormous seller base make it a lucrative destination to buy and rent college books. It’s rare not to find the book you need on Amazon, even those small run specialty books.
Since there are many sellers for each book, you can usually get reasonable prices. Even if you don’t end up buying on Amazon, it helps in establishing a price range. The rent period for books is pretty flexible, and you can instantly get the ebook version of the book on Kindle. When your rental period is up, return shipping is free.
There are only two cons when renting or buying books on Amazon. First, Amazon discourages any highlighting or note-taking inside its books, which might be a deal-breaker for some. Second, you have to be a Prime member to get two-day free shipping—not a big deal unless you’ve waited until the last moment to get your books.
Barnes and Noble Rentals: Wide Selection with Flexible Rentals
Barnes and Noble features a wide selection of books with flexible rental options. The minimum rental period is 60 days, and you can extend the rental by 15, 30, 45, up to 125 days.
If during your rental you decide to purchase the book, you can do so, and your already paid rental will be deducted from the final sale price.
Shipping for rentals isn’t free, but return shipping is. The return period is pretty flexible—you can return the book within 21 days, but you’ll be charged a $5 return fee. Another advantage of Barnes and Noble is that if you don’t return the book on time, they add a 15-day extension instead of a large fee or penalty.
Barnes and Noble also works with many universities, so you might be able to hit up your college bookstore and work out the rental for exactly the books you need.
Bigwords.com: For Finding the Best Deals
Bigwords.com differs from the other sites we’ve talked about because it doesn’t sell or rent books. Instead, it’s a meta search engine that can help you find the best prices at which other sellers have listed the books you need. You can search for a book using the ISBN code, the title, the author, and even the publisher name.
Unfortunately, the pricing for books is not listed up front on their site; instead, they fetch after you add books to your cart. It’s a bit of an annoyance, but it does help guarantee real-time pricing.
The interesting part comes up once the pricing is fetched. Bigwords.com allows you to filter book results based on a lot of factors, including new or used, whether you want to buy or rent, the devices you own, shipping times, and many more. It can save a lot of time and help you find the best deals quickly.
iFlipd: Best for Short Term Rentals
iFlipd is an excellent website to rent books for a short time. It carries millions of titles in print and eBook, and you can rent them by the week. It’s a great option for last-minute exam preparation or if you’re taking a class where you’ll be reading several smaller books throughout the semester.
iFlipd also offers many books in print and digital versions, and you get the option of renting both of them at the same time. Shipping is free both ways for physical books, so you might want to check out iFlipd to save shipping costs.
The only downside is that you can’t rent books for a longer term, just weekly.
Student Book Trades: For Buying or Exchanging Books on Campus
Student Book Trades treats the book rental game differently. Instead of letting you rent books on their website, it matches you with other students who have the book. The website doesn’t take part in the transaction.
Once you find the book, you can pay for it, exchange it, or barter it for something else; it’s totally up to you and the other person. If you create an account, you’ll be able to add the books that you own to the site and also bookmark books that you want to buy or rent. You’ll be notified when someone is interested in one of your books or a book that you want becomes available.