Best Textbook Rentals Online of 2018

Jessica Richards ·
Education Software & Printing Senior Writer
Updated
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After ordering the same textbook from eight online textbook rental companies, we think that Chegg Books’ updated policy puts it ahead of the rest. As soon as you’ve ordered your textbook from Chegg, you can start reading the eBook version online. Getting instant access means you won’t fall behind if you’ve decided to rent rather than buy your textbooks. If you don’t need a physical copy of the book, Chegg also offers plenty of rental options, making it one of the best textbook rental companies.    

Best Overall
Chegg
Chegg Books is keeping up with the times with flexible rental terms and your access to an eBook version of your textbook as soon as you place your order.
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Best Value
Amazon
Because Amazon hosts different sellers on its site to buy or rent from, you’ll get more choice in pricing and find the widest selection textbooks from any online textbook renter.
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Best Flexible Rental Terms
Bookbyte
Bookbyte gives you more options for your rental term than other online textbook rental services, which gives you the flexibility to take a block class or extend your time.
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Best Overall
Chegg is an online student hub that, in addition to online textbook rentals, connects students with online tutoring, scholarship services and test prep. After our testing, we think that Chegg offers some of the best textbook rental options because of its flexible rental periods and instant access to an e-text version of your book.
If you prefer an e-text to a physical copy, you can rent your book for 90, 120 or 180 days. Chegg has an application that works on popular operating systems where you can access your text. Renting from Chegg also gets you access to textbook solutions to help you work through problems your professor assigns, and the support of the hub forums where you can look up frequently asked questions 24/7. Chegg’s rental period for physical books is not quite as flexible as its etext plans – you can only rent for a semester or quarter – so if you want more control, there are other sites to choose from. But, if you do place an order with Chegg for a physical copy of your book, you can get an e-text version of it right away. That way, if your professor assigns readings the first day, you won’t get behind while waiting for your book to arrive. Chegg lets you highlight in physical copies of the books, but you can’t take notes. If you need to change your course schedule or drop a class, Chegg has a 21-day return policy within which you can get your money back for the rental period.
Pros
  • Flexible rental options for e-texts
  • E-text version delivered instantly when you make a purchase
  • Support features to maximize your learning
Cons
  • Fewer rental options for physical copies
  • Not allowed to write in the textbooks, only highlight
  • Must rent for a period rather than a specific date
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Best Value
In addition to other things, Amazon makes a good choice as a textbook supplier. It’s mostly the scale that sets them apart. You can find lesser-known titles and get different price options from multiple sellers on the site, which gives you some confidence you’re getting the right price for your textbook rentals.
Also, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get your books in just two days. There’s an annual fee to be a member, but you can try out all the perks for six months if you’re signing up as a student for the first time. Amazon’s search options are easy to use, and you don’t even have to go to a special location of the website to type in the information. You have to keep tabs on returning the book by the due date because the system automatically charges you first for a 15-day period, then for the full price of the book. Amazon does allow a limited amount of writing and highlighting in its books, but there aren’t any clear guidelines about how much, exactly, that is. Amazon also has many electronic titles you can borrow, and you can set a calendar date you’d like the rental period to end. You can use Amazon’s Kindle or the Kindle app to get your materials box for returns.
Pros
  • Multiple sellers make it easy to compare prices
  • Can use a Kindle or app to get e-texts instantly
  • Rent for the exact amount of time you need
Cons
  • Need to be a member to get free, two-day shipping
  • Automatically charges if you miss the return date
  • Limited amount of notation and highlighting allowed
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Best Flexible Rental Terms
Pros
  • Largest selection of rental terms
  • Can extend rentals via your account
  • Sends reminders about returns
Cons
  • No eBooks available
  • Shipping isn't free under $49
  • Doesn't provide a box for returning your book
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Best for eTextbooks
If you want to use eTextbooks rather than physical books, iFlipd is the best option we saw.
It has a wide selection of eTextbooks, and unlike some of the other companies we looked at, it lets you rent by the week. Renting week to week gives you some flexibility, especially if you have a habit of cramming last minute. If you rent digitally, you can earn points and credits for returning your eTextbook early. These points give you or someone else the opportunity to rent textbooks at a discount. One downside is that you can only rent by the week, so if you want your textbook for a whole semester, you may want to use another service.
Pros
  • Great for short-term rentals
Cons
  • No long-term rental options
$0.00iFlipd
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Best Selection
Barnes & Nobel has the largest selection of textbooks to rent.
Its thousands of textbooks cover not just lower-level courses, but also many upper-level ones. Rental periods range from 60 to 130 days, and you can extend your rental for as few as 15 days or as many as 125 days. You can also purchase the book at any time during the rental period, and the rental fee is subtracted from the price of the book. One drawback to choosing Barnes & Nobel is it doesn’t offer free shipping on textbooks.
Pros
  • Wide selection of lower- and upper-level textbooks
Cons
  • No free shipping
$0.00Barnes & Noble
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Why Trust Us?
With the rising cost of college, getting cheaper books or renting from a service can be a great way to save a few bucks. But, we know what it can be like to hunt around for the right edition online or to waiting around for your books to arrive while your professor keeps assigning readings to the whole class. We looked for online textbook rental companies that understand these pressures and get your books to you quickly while letting you have control of when and how you return them without incurring additional fees.

We regularly update this site with the newest information about what’s new in the online textbook rental world.  We spend our days reading website FAQs and return policies so that you can find the best online textbook rental options for your needs. 

How We Tested
First, we researched to find the best textbook companies by looking at their online offerings, rental and buying options, their return policies and support centers. We looked to see if their online sites were up-to-date, had secure payment options and were intuitive to use.  We were particularly interested in eBook offerings from each site because it seems like an inexpensive way to get your hands on your textbooks.

We looked to see what kind of textbook selection the companies offer and how many they keep on their sites. We also wanted to know the company’s policies about textbook return and in what condition the book needs to be to be returned in to avoid additional fees after using it for a semester or block class. We favored companies with more lenient policies and more flexible return times. 

After researching a ton of textbook rentals, we chose to test eight different companies. We ordered the same textbook from every online textbook company we tested, a copy of Alan Strahler’s Introducing Physical Geography. We tracked the shipping to make sure that it arrived within the services’ estimated window. Then, we looked at the shipping materials that the service provided. Finally, we evaluated how easy it was to return each of these books to close out our accounts.

How Much Does Renting Textbooks Cost?

Depending on major, a typical college student can spend up to $1,200 a year on textbooks. Renting can save you more than 50 percent, and sometimes up to 70 percent, of the typical cost. If your major requires expensive textbooks, renting can save you quite a bit of money. Depending on the company you choose, you may have to pay shipping, late fees and fees for any damage that occurs to the books you rent.

What Key Features to Look for When Renting or Buying Textbooks

Rental options
Choose a company that offers rental periods that work with your school schedule so you can avoid having to send your textbook back a week before finals. While most companies offer extensions, you’ll want to find out what kinds of additional fees they charge and how much longer you can get each title.

You’ll also want to see if you can get e-text versions of the book in addition to or instead of a physical copy. E-textbooks can be delivered to your device instantly, and you don’t have to worry about sending them back.

Returns
We evaluated the convenience of returns to each company based on the packaging and included instructions. But you’ll probably just want to keep an eye out for the return policy information. Having a company that sends you notifications and reminders about when the item is due helps you to avoid late fees.

You might also want to check to see what kind of return conditions the company places on the textbooks they rent out. Some companies let you annotate and highlight, while others don’t let you make marks of any kind, but keep an eye out for what’s right for you so that you’re not surprised. 

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