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Financial Friday: Should you Buy or Rent Textbooks?

Editor’s note: Financial Friday is rerunning this column from last August to help new students as they begin classes this week for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., Stetson University professor

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D.

Should you rent or buy a textbook? New or used? Online or print? These are common questions that students ask, and the answer for each of your classes may be different. Consider the below questions as you navigate the textbook acquisition process.

1.     How long will I use this book?

First, follow the syllabus instructions. If the syllabus does not answer this question, consider whether you will need this book after the end of the semester. If the answer is “yes,” you should probably buy the book, because most rentals and online access end shortly after the semester. If you purchase the book and later determine that you don’t need it, you can resell it used.

2.     New or Used?

This is a personal decision. With a used text, you do not know what you are going to get. You may get a book that has pages missing, is otherwise damaged or may be marked up. Being marked up may be a good thing, though, if it is properly highlighted or has useful notes in the margin.

3.     E-book or Print?

Similar to the new versus used question, the preference for an e-book versus traditional hard copy remains a personal decision. There are a variety of factors you should consider when making this decision, from cost to ease of use. Top Ten Reviews offers a complete synopsis in their articles, The Advantages of eBooks Versus Traditional Books.

Betty Thorne, Stetson University

Betty Thorne, Ph.D.

In addition to the questions of usage duration and preferences toward the medium of the text, your budget is also something that should be considered when making textbook decisions. Be sure to compare the cost of rental against the cost of purchase of a new or used book. To get a full finance picture of the cost difference, look up the buy-back price of the book and include those end of term savings in your comparison.

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., is Chair of the Accounting Department and associate professor of taxation and accounting. Betty Thorne, Ph.D., is a professor of statistics and the Christian R. Lindback Chair of Business Administration. They write Financial Fridays to bolster students’ financial wellness, including preventing financial mistakes, safeguarding their assets and identity, and thinking critically about financial decisions. For questions, contact Valrie Chambers at Valrie.chambers@stetson.edu.