How to budget for your college textbooks

Image of text books.

There are many options for renting, buying, or digitally owning your textbooks. Check our guide to see which best fits your needs.

According to College Board, books and supplies at a four-year college cost approximately $1,250 each year, which makes it worthwhile to consider your options in obtaining your textbooks.

First, consider the pros and cons between buying, renting, or going digital — we’ve broken them down in the table below. Then, take a look at three common college textbooks and how their costs compare when you’re buying vs. renting, and opting for used, new, or digital.

Pros Cons
Renting Lower costs Must pay for book if lost
Can return when finished Must return by a specific date to avoid fees
Buying Keep and use as resource throughout college Book value will depreciate
Can sell book when finished with it Typically higher costs
Digital Accessible on multiple devices Must have electronic device to access (plus chargers)
Lower costs Some professors do not allow electronics in class
Lightweight in backpack Cannot highlight and mark up book for notes/ references

The Art of Public Speaking by Stephen E. Lucas (13th Edition)

Buy digital $33
Rent digital $30
Buy new (hardcover) $244 – 258
Buy used (hardcover) $144 – $280
Rent (hardcover) $76
Buy new (paperback) n/a
Buy used (paperback) n/a
Rent (paperback) n/a
Buy new (loose leaf) $64 – $187
Buy used (loose leaf) $46 – $122
Buy new (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$124 – $177
Buy used (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$77 – 172
Buy used (textbook binding) 160

 

Chemistry: The Central Science by Theodore E. Brown, H. Eugene LeMay, Bruce E. Bursten, Catherine Murphy, Patrick Woodward, Matthew E. Stoltzfus (14th Edition)

Buy digital $75
Rent digital $60
Buy new (hardcover) $114 – $459
Buy used (hardcover) $53 – $307
Rent (hardcover) $15 – $59
Buy new (paperback) $44 – $124
Buy used (paperback) $39 – $84
Rent (paperback) n/a
Buy new (loose leaf) $97 – $308
Buy used (loose leaf) $40 – $223
Buy new (hardcover plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$258 – $351
Buy used (hardcover plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$110 – 299
Buy new (loose leaf plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$208 – $315
Buy used (loose leaf plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$130 – $208

 

Social Psychology by David G. Myers and Jean M. Twenge (13th Edition)

Buy digital $41
Rent digital $37
Buy new (hardcover) $150 – $720
Buy used (hardcover) $121 – $699
Rent (hardcover) $84
Buy new (paperback) $97 – $101
Buy used (paperback) $94 – $166
Rent (paperback) n/a
Buy new (loose leaf) $81 – $231
Buy used (loose leaf) $71 – $220
Buy new (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$150 – $170
Buy used (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$164

 

Note: Prices were pulled from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in March 2020.

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