Online book rentals offer cheap alternative for spendy texts

Kaitlin Johnson

The Northern Light

Samantha Emerson spent almost 600 dollars on textbooks this semester at the UAA Bookstore.

“It was pretty stiff,” the freshmen political science student said.

Many UAA students spend over one hundred dollars for textbooks per class.  Most of these books are only useful for one semester.

While the UAA bookstore does buy back some books, it is at a significantly reduced rate and many books are not accepted because they become outdated too quickly.

“I try to return them but most of the times the bookstore won’t take their crap back because there’s some new edition,” senior music major Nolan Bradly said. “It leaves me with a bunch of books that I don’t need or want and can’t get rid of.”

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Expensive text books are not just a UAA problem.  Rising book costs go hand in hand with the national trend of the rising cost of education.

A study done by the Government Accountability Office in 2005 found that since 1986, the cost of textbooks has increased at an average of 6 percent per year – twice the rate of inflation.

The study found that a number of factors contributed to this trend. The most prominent of these were the cost associated with developing supplementary materials such as CDs.

Another contributor was the frequent revisions found in textbooks.

This study confirms what Emerson and Bradly already know: buying textbooks is expensive. But why buy when you can rent?

Students can save 65 to 85 percent renting textbooks from

“Chegg eradicates the hassle and high cost of purchasing textbooks,” Vice President of Public Relations for the website Tina Couch said.

Osman Rashid and Aayush Phumbhra, two Iowa State University students frustrated by the process of buying books at the campus bookstore, founded the Web site in 2003. They designed Chegg to be a Netflix for textbooks, originally calling it “” The company was launched nationwide in 2007 and is now used by students from over 6,000 campuses.

But Chegg isn’t just about savings, Couch said.

“One student typically uses the equivalent of one tree’s worth of paper in textbooks each year,” she said. “Typically, our textbooks can be rented about a few times before they are taken out of circulation and recycled, which drastically cuts down on the amount of paper used and trees cut down to print new textbooks.”

To emphasize their commitment to the environment, Chegg plants a tree for each book rented, bought or sold.  According to the Web site, the company has currently funded over 750 acres of trees to be planted. That’s the equivalent of 500 football fields.

After hearing about, Emerson thought it was a good option for students.

“We’re all college students, we’re all on a budget and spending 80 percent more just isn’t something I’m interested in doing,” she said. “If I can get the same product for cheaper I will. It just makes sense”

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