Different textbook buying options make for a more student-friendly experience

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BYU student Karl Magwood browses textbooks in the BYU bookstore and searches for an option best suited to his needs. (Hannah Miner)

The pressure to work for a successful college education while maintaining financial stability can be tough on every student, particularly those who are just starting their BYU career. Textbooks, in particular, can be a pricey investment, but one which can be absolutely necessary for success in the classroom.

There is a lot to consider when making textbook purchases. Many new students might wonder whether they should rent books or buy them. Others may wonder where they should buy them.

However, there are a variety of options, and BYU is trying to make the textbook purchasing process as simple as possible.

BYU Store

My Book List is generally the first place a student should check to see what textbooks they need for the semester. While this is often a reliable way to buy the books needed, it might not always be the cheapest.

BYU Store director Mark Clegg talked about how store employees and administrators are trying to make it easier for students to find cheaper textbook options.

“We see the textbook business as a service to the students, not a revenue or profit-building aspect of the BYU Store,” Clegg said. “We show Amazon and Redshelf prices; we show all competitive pricing. We try to be as transparent as possible.”

The BYU Store also offers textbook rentals, similar to other sources shown on My Book List, though it can be fairly competitive to get the books needed for additional renting options.

“We are currently looking at a number of sales models to ease the financial stress on students — including a possible rent-only model,” Clegg said.

My Book List shows used and new book prices from the BYU Store and other retailers. (BYU Store)

Online sources

Another way to buy physical textbooks is through various online sources like Amazon, Chegg or ThriftBooks. These places offer great deals on textbooks that many colleges use; Amazon prices are even displayed on My Book List.

For Alexander Steimle, a 23-year-old computer science major, these online options are the best way to go when it comes to buying or renting textbooks. 

“When I started at BYU, I was thinking of so many other things, I didn’t stop to think about the prices of my books,” Steimle said. “I had no idea how easy it was to rent and buy in other ways. For example, Amazon Rentals includes free shipping once you are done with your textbook, which made life a lot easier for me.”

However, without more expensive shipping options, it may take one or two weeks for books to show up in the mail, which might be a major drawback for those who want their books quickly.

E-books

A digital textbook is also a valid option for people who don’t want to carry multiple heavy textbooks with them from class to class. E-books not only provide students with information on-the-go but they also have many useful study features that might make life easier for students.

Price and convenience are often the biggest factors for students when purchasing textbooks, and having an e-book is especially useful in both of these ways. This is especially true since e-books can be rented instead of purchased from sources like Google and Amazon.

Beau Hunsaker, a 20-year-old sophomore, had her own experiences with transitioning to using e-books.

“Nothing would come in the mail fast enough, and BYU was out of stock when I needed a book,” Hunsaker said. “So I bought it on Google Play and things worked out better for me; it was cheaper too.”

Despite the many benefits of using e-books, some students say they still aren’t a perfect replacement to a physical copy, especially during long study sessions.

“The one thing I like better about hard copies is that I don’t get headaches,” Hunsaker said. “Staring at a screen hurts my head, so sometimes I prefer to stare at a paper copy instead.”

There is not a universal perfect way to buy textbooks. Many students at BYU have tried all of these textbook variants, and each has its own advantages.

Renting is generally the cheapest way to go, but some students prefer to buy textbooks they find helpful for their major or future career. E-books are useful and cheap, but having more than a couple might strain your eyes over long periods of studying. Online orders are often cheaper but may not arrive when you want them to.

No matter the choice, textbooks are an investment worth making. They help students learn independently, and provide opportunities to excel in class and beyond their college education. It may be worth spending the money now for even greater rewards in the future.

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