Bookbyte Blog

I’ve been out of college for a few years now, and it amazes me how much things have changed in the short time since I’ve been gone. A lot of things are much tougher. I don’t envy you guys’ tuition hikes. See the chart below from CNN Money:A chart displaying rising tuition rates. Tuition at a four-year private college has increased 60% in 10 years. Tuition at public four-year colleges has increased 104%.

No, I wasn’t getting out of college in the mid-80’s, that’s just the starting point of the scariest chart I could find. Let’s try not to think about what it’s going to cost to put our kids through school.

But there’s a lot I do envy about current college students. The main thing? You all have options. When I was in college, I bought all my books from the campus bookstore, so I was totally at the mercy of their pricing. I’d buy an $80 history book and sell it back at the end of the term for around $5 or $6. A few times I managed to get a book off somebody who had just finished a class, but that was about as savvy as anyone got. You could buy textbooks online, and a number of people did, but it wasn’t nearly as commonplace as it is today.

Nobody rented out textbooks though. That’s a new one. I hope current college students know just how lucky they are to have this as an option.

It’s a no-brainer, right? How many books do college students go through in a year? And how many of those books will they want on their bookshelves for the rest of their lives?

Photo of a young man reading a book.

Boy, I sure am glad I kept this textbook on Word ’98 around!

Still, what it really comes down to is money. Let’s say, instead of renting, you buy a book and sell it back after the end of the term. Isn’t that basically the same thing as renting? Let’s test it out:

Art History, Marilyn Stokstad & Michael W. Cothren, 4th ed.arthist

  • Current rental (150 days): $51.21
  • Current new price: $189.60
  • Current used price: $103.40
  • Current sale value: $58.75

Now, the current sale value actually isn’t that useful of a number. With new editions coming out every few years, the value of a textbook deteriorates rapidly the longer it’s on a shelf. (Which is to say nothing about the value lost to wear and tear on the book.)

Naturally, certain books are going to lose their value much faster. A textbook on tax law or software must always be up-to-date, so those could lose as much as 90% of their value once a new edition comes out. But for this example, we’re looking at Art History, so let’s assume it’s going to get a more moderate depreciation. If there isn’t a new edition, or any other major shakeups, the average depreciation after a semester is slightly over 20%.

  • Adjusted sale value: $47 ($58.75 x 80%)

Let’s say you buy the book new and then sell it back as soon as you’re done. $189.60 – $47 = $142.60 (total spent)

Let’s say you buy the book used and then sell it back as soon as you’re done. $103.40 – $47 = $56.40 (total spent)

Let’s say you rent the book, and then get 10% of the book’s price back after you return it (which is how Bookbyte does things). $51.21 – $5.12 = $46.09 (total spent)

So even if you buy a used copy of the book in perfect condition, keep it in perfect condition the whole time you have it, and assuming the value of the book doesn’t go way down, you’re still spending $10 more to buy the book instead of rent it.

That was a very conservative estimate. Let’s try it out with something that depreciates much faster.

dsmDSM-IV Made Easy: The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis, James Morrison

  • Current rental (150 days): $22.36
  • Current new price: $67.50
  • Current used price: $45.15
  • Current sale value: $23.75

Psych people will know the DSM-IV as the Bible of diagnosis. A DSM-V has been in the works for a while and is set to be released in May 2013. That means a book about understanding the older DSM is going to become very obsolete very quickly. So we should probably assume a depreciation of at least 70%.

  • Adjusted sale value: $7.12 ($23.75 x 30%)

Let’s say you buy the book new and then sell it back as soon as you’re done. $67.50 – $7.12 = $60.38 (total spent)

Let’s say you buy the book used and then sell it back as soon as you’re done. $45.15 – $7.12 = $38.03 (total spent)

Let’s say you rent the book, and then get 10% of the book’s price back after you return it (which is how Bookbyte does things). $23.75 – $2.37 = $21.38 (total spent)

In this case, renting instead of buying and selling saves the customer nearly $17. That’s both a bigger number than the first example and much, much bigger percentage than the first example. And it’s still not taking wear and tear into account.

For more information on Bookbyte’s rental program, visit here.

Comments on: "How Much of a Difference Does Renting Textbooks Make?" (1)

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