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 $1,240 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) $97 – $288
Buy used (hardcover) $102– $182
Rent (hardcover) $38
Buy new (paperback) n/a
Buy used (paperback) n/a
Rent (paperback) n/a
Buy new (loose leaf) $67 – $136
Buy used (loose leaf) $45 – $75
Buy new (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
 $137 – $208
Buy used (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$101 – $304
Buy used (textbook binding) $93

 

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 $55
Buy new (hardcover) $167 – $283
Buy used (hardcover) $67 – $440
Rent (hardcover) $27 – $58
Buy new (paperback) $80 – $103
Buy used (paperback) $77 – $131
Rent (paperback) n/a
Buy new (loose leaf) $125 – $271
Buy used (loose leaf) $53 – $291
Rent (loose leaf) $56
Buy new (loose leaf plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$219 – $507
Buy used (loose leaf plus Mastering Chemistry
with Pearson eText, access card package)
$73 – $215

 

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

Buy digital $41
Rent digital $37
Buy new (hardcover) $150 – $215
Buy used (hardcover)  $128 – $200
Rent (hardcover) $58 – $86
Buy new (paperback) $57 – $100
Buy used (paperback) $67 – $121
Rent (paperback) $72
Buy new (loose leaf) $78 – $231
Buy used (loose leaf) $93 – $170
Rent (loose leaf) $83
Buy new (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$190 – $202
Buy used (Gen Combo loose leaf;
CONNECT Access Card)
$123 – $153

 

Note: Prices were pulled from Amazon.com in December 2020.

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