Students choose to rent textbooks online over buying them new, used

By Maraithe Thomas, News Staff

For many students entering a new semester this week, the trend of renting books has emerged as an option for students looking to save some money while purchasing textbooks.

Rather than relying on the university bookstore or, sites like and offer textbooks at severely discounted prices for semester rentals. They even pay for shipping when it’s time to return the books. Some Northeastern students have already taken advantage of these sites in favor of buying books online or at Northeastern’s bookstore.

I started renting books last year. It’s way cheaper,’ said Tom Donovan, a sophomore engineering major. ‘All the math and science textbooks can be so expensive. A book that was $100 in the bookstore used was only $55 to rent on Chegg.’

Donovan said students who buy their books at Northeastern’s bookstore can sell their books back to Chegg in exchange for cash or credit toward next semester. Chegg uses a system where if a book was worth, for example, $20, they will either send a check for that amount, or give sellers a higher amount of store credit, like $23.

‘I paid $100 for a whole semester’s worth of books by renting,’ said Sarah Leahy, a sophomore communications major. ‘And you don’t have to pay for shipping. It’s awesome.’

The textbook rental site CengageBrain offers books 70 percent discounted from the list price. They also offer the first chapter of textbooks in eBook format while they wait for the book to ship. Once the rental is complete, students can either choose to ship the book back for free or purchase the book, according to a press release from CengageBrain.

Other students find the standard method of buying textbooks a suitable way to make sure they’re getting the exact book they need, but at a price.

Freshman biology Rachael Twombly and Sean Welch said they paid between $400 to $500 on a semester’s worth of books at the bookstore but preferred to buy them at Northeastern to make sure they can get their books on time.

‘It just seems easier to get them at the bookstore so you can sell them back afterward,’ Twombly said. ‘It’s not that I wouldn’t make the effort to get them online but we don’t get our textbook lists ahead of time.’

Some students have even found a way to turn the unpleasantness of textbook-purchasing into a philanthropic deed.

Carlotta Starks, a senior nursing major, said that while she would consider renting the larger, more expensive science textbooks she needs to buy, she buys some of her used textbooks at the website, which donates all of its profits to fund literacy programs around the world.

So far the site has raised over $7 million for global literacy, as shown by a meter on their homepage that increases by the second. ‘It’s nice because you know the money is going to a good cause,’ she said.

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