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College students save by renting books

August 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
This is the first week of classes for many college campuses. And that means students need to buy their textbooks which can be very expensive. Many schools estimate that students will spend more than $1500 a year on books. Consumer Specialist Ric Romero says if you rent instead of buy you can save a lot of money.At this time of year the college bookstore is the most popular place on campus. But what a huge expense textbooks are for students and their parents.

"I am taking two classes and I think the total is up to $700," said college student Tara Iwamoto.

But what if you could get those same books for half the cost or even less? This semester some students near the campus of USC are learning about an online service that doesn't sell college textbooks, it rents them.

The Web site is called Chegg.com. Once a student makes their choice online the book can be in their hands in less than a week. After 125 days or when the student is done with the book they simply send it back. The textbooks are both new and used.

"The only concerns I would have is the quality of the book, instead of getting a brand new book," said college student Christina Biernat. "They say if the book is not up to par then you can return it."

So how much can you save by renting? Chegg claims up to 85 percent off the retail price.

"It sounds pretty good. I spent $700 on books. If I could save half of that it would make a huge difference," said college student Mustafa Quteisha.

But some other online booksellers, such as Alibris, Textbooks R Us, AbeBooks and Biblio say have similar savings with used books.

So we went to Bigwords.com, a Web site that comparison shops those book sellers as well as Chegg, we found that depending on the book Chegg is usually cheaper, but not always.

For example, "Psychology in Action" retails for $147.70, but through Chegg it's only $11.99. But another textbook, "Principles of Economics," which retails for $210.95 was available for $78.06 on Chegg, but only $58.93 brand new with another seller. So it pays to shop around before you buy.

One more thing, we found that some college campuses such as Cal State Fullerton also rent books to their students. They believe the savings are about 65 percent off retail, and the school allows them to download digital eBooks that they need for their classes as well.

If you want to save on your textbooks by renting or buying online then you need to order right away since classes are starting.

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