If you’re a student, you know that textbooks are expensive. Some are so expensive you think they must have gold plating somewhere within the pages. For years the only way to save on textbooks was to buy used books, either from your school’s store or from a third party seller. Now, though, you can rent textbooks. Many services have sprung up on the Internet that allow you to rent books by the semester, quarter, or even for the whole year. You pay the rental fee upfront and the rental service sends you the book, along with (in most cases) a postage paid envelope for its return. When the class is over, you mail the books back to the rental agency and you’re done with it.
This is a great way to save money on books, although students should read the fine print carefully. Many rental services require the books to be returned in the same condition in which you received them. This can mean no highlighting of important passages, no writing in the book, no dog-eared pages, no spills or stains, and no missing or ripped pages. If you fail to take care of a book, you may owe fees or simply have to buy the whole book. This can negate your savings so if you rent, take good care of your books. Every agency has different rules, so make sure you know the rules for every site that you rent from.
But why should a third party site get to make all the money? You can also get into the rental business on your own campus. You can buy the books you need for your courses and, when you’re done, set yourself up as a rental source for the students that come after you. You can advertise on student bulletin boards, social networking sites, in the campus paper, or on your school’s message forums.
You can set competitive prices by looking at what the big rental sites are charging. You won’t need to charge as much since you won’t have to deal with postage so you can undercut their prices a bit. When you get a renter, make certain you specify the condition the book should be in when it comes back to you. Both you and the renter should make a note of any existing damage so that new damage is easily detected. Set a date by which the book will be returned to you and set a schedule of fees that you’ll charge if the book is returned damaged, isn’t returned at all, or is returned too late for you to rent it for the next term. To protect your investment in the book, put it all in writing and have your renter sign the document.
Most courses use the same book over and over, so you can rent a book a few times. You’ll probably make back more than the book initially cost. When the book can no longer be used on your campus, you can sell it somewhere like eBay or Half.com to a student who still needs your version. By the time you’re done renting and reselling the book, you will likely have made a decent profit.
Renting books is a great way to both make and save money on textbooks. No matter what you do, textbooks will always make up a big chunk of a students’ budget but renting can make it a little less painful.