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To buy, rent or download?

Variety of options aim to help students avoid high-cost texts

Every quarter new classes require students to obtain textbooks, of some form.

Textbooks are a critical component of many classes, but can be pricey. 

Textbooks, aside from tuition, room and board, are regarded one of the largest expenses related to college. A July article* by The New York Times* indicated the cost of college textbooks has risen 6 percent on average each year from 1986 to 2004.  

But new regulations passed by the federal government aim to help students learn about required textbooks and other course material before classes start. The goal is to make faculty more aware of the costs associated with each assigned book and to give students more time to shop around. 

This July federal guidelines went into effect requiring that universities assist students in knowing at the time of registration, the course’s required texts and their costs. The legislation also requires textbook publishers to make cost information, differences between the content of new and old textbook editions, and whether the material exists in other formats more widely available to faculty.

OHIO responded quickly to the legislation, implementing Textbook, a software program that allows instructors to upload their courses' required books and their estimated costs. In addition, instructors can list specialized equipment, such as software programs or scientific instruments, which may be required for the course. 

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit indicated that as Textbook becomes established during the upcoming academic year that it will increasingly help both students and faculty. Students will have information that will allow them to get the best deal for course materials. Faculty will have an easy way to submit their book orders to local bookstores and to become more knowledgeable about textbook costs. 

“The first use of the software has been taking place over the summer as faculty ready their courses and students prepare for fall quarter. What I have heard informally is that both students and faculty are pleased with Textbook,” said Benoit. “I look forward to learning more about its use and how we might improve it in the future.”

The additional time gained from learning about course materials in advance is important. The array of choices for acquiring a required textbook is greater than ever before.

Buying used textbooks
Shortly after students move into their residence halls and apartments, the race begins to snag the used textbooks off the various bookstore shelves. There is a finite supply of these discounted books and students are eager to get their hands on them.

Students can now use this extra time to explore online book options.* and* compare prices from online retail and rental websites in used, new, rental, e-book and international versions.

Moreover, much like their travel counterpart,, they help books purchasers to find the lowest price.

OHIO also has its own option for students looking to purchase used textbooks. The Ohio University Student Senate Book Exchange lets students browse by a book’s ISBN number or by academic department. Students sell directly to students and books are often heavily discounted.

Below there are some new options for purchasing books without breaking the bank. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of options and the university does not endorse any particular bookseller or method of obtaining textbooks.

Renting textbooks
Many students will hold onto a few textbooks throughout their college careers for future reference, but, the majority of their texts end up being sold at the end of the quarter.

To combat this, many students are taking part in a recent trend of renting textbooks. Students can rent texts in person at Follett’s University Bookstore* through Rent-A-Text. 

Other bookstores in downtown Athens also offer textbook rental options. Students should look into all of their options before making a final decision.

Online, there are a variety of options:*,* and* are just three of the countless websites offering book rentals. Even national bookstore chain Barnes and Noble recently announced plans to offer rental textbooks.


For students who won't miss highlighting pages and scribbling in a book’s margins, e-books offer a convenient and lighter alternative to their paper and binding counterparts.

Barnes and Noble’s NOOKstudy*, which does not require the Nook e-reader, is a free software program that allows students to download e-books at discounted prices, among other features.

The coming quarter brings new academic experiences, but one thing that it does not need to bring is expensive textbooks.

But, no matter how low the prices or good the deal students should always be prepared and knowledgeable when they purchase textbooks.

"My advice to students is to be an educated consumer," said Ryan Lombardi, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "Shop around and compare for the best prices. I would also encourage students to be sure that they are purchasing the appropriate text by checking with their professor on the first day of class or via the course syllabus."

Related Links

Book Exchange Student page

Additional Info

* Following this link takes you away from the Ohio University website.