Is renting textbooks green? – Part 2

As Earth Day approaches we are going to start expanding upon our previous post asking whether renting textbooks is environmentally friendly.  The first point of discussion was the following:

  1. Renting books has been happening for years in the form of buying textbooks from your local university bookstore and (hopefully) selling the books after finals.  However, the textbook shuffle by publishers producing new book editions stops this rental cycle.

Renting, as defined as buying and selling your book, from your local bookstore is more environmentally friendly than renting from Chegg, BookRenter, CampusBookRentals, etc.  Why?

  1. Books are heavy to ship, they are already going to be at your local bookstore, based upon their years of experience of supplying enough books for the local demand.
  2. Waiting till the last minute and ordering your book that gets shipped via air is very environmentally unfriendly (planes burn more gas than trucks). Walking down to your local store obviously releases much less carbon than a plane or a truck.

So why are rental companies growing so rapidly?  It all boils down to money.  If your local bookstore is charging you $135 for your Biology book, and you can rent your book online for $75 – seems most people would rent it and save the $60 difference.  However, if you purchase that book you have the right to sell it when finished.  Generally, for a popular “current edition” textbook, you can get between 50-75% of the current market price via textbook buyback (if you hunt around).  So, let’s take the low end, 50% of $135 is $67.50, which means that you actually spent less than if you had rented the book, and you were much friendlier to the environment.

I can already feel people jumping out of their seats and saying, “The bookstores give me pennies, or nothing at all”.  In many cases, you are right because of what I call the “textbook shuffle”.  The textbook shuffle is the practice of publishers constantly creating “new editions” of textbooks.  Without a doubt, one advantage of renting is you don’t have to worry about the buyback value of our book.  In recent years, you can find your best buyback value online with TextbooksRus, Blue Rocket Books, Powell’s, or others to find the best price for your book.  However, this is not necessarily the most environmentally friendly practice either, because you are again incurring the additional shipping and packaging of the book.  An interesting concept is Rent A Text, by Follett, which is utilizing existing supply and distribution channels (your local bookstores) to deliver textbook rentals.

In summary, the most environmentally friendly option would be to purchase and sell back your textbook or rent from a walkable location; however, economics often trump the environment.  Next, we will discuss ways in which rental companies are addressing their environmental impact.


  1. J. S. A. says:

    I like the idea of renting, but sometimes I like to keep certain books from classes I really enjoyed. I understand that the main draw to renting is the price, but they actually aren't always cheaper, and that coupled with the fact that I like to keep some of them often leads me to purchase mine.

  2. I kno the future of the Kno tablet: The books are listed as "You can purchase or rent books only from Kno tablet…

  3. I sell books online, that's my job. About a year ago I started putting together what I would describe as a survival library.  A lot of people have heard of the Foxfire series, there is some good information in those. Cookbooks, as you mentioned in this video. A few books on first aid/health issues, home remedies I consider to be a cornerstone of the survival library. Wilderness survival, edible plants, etc. There a 1000's of books out there on these subjects, pick up a few for your family.

  4. Nick Ruffilo says:

    There is a key issue with the library. While many americans have great libraries in their areas, there are a majority of people who's libraries are very small (less than 2000 books total). On top of that, libraries have limited hours and have difficulty stocking the latest bestsellers and there is a large waitlist.

    Libraries are amazing. I love them and am a member of my local library, but for me to say that I will exclusively use the library is a bit of a stretch. People want what is new and they want it now – Libraries have failed to provide in that area for a long time and due to budgetary constraints as well as a difficulty embracing technology, there will always be a market to sell/rent books.

  5. You in #college? Rent your books!

  6. I never buy textbooks. Most unis have them in library or get interlibrary loan. You can also find them on google books or pirate sites.

  7. Go to I think that will help you out. They are able to search all of the online textbook retailers and will even search all of the online textbook rental sites for you too. I've used it numerous times and it's been a huge help for me with saving money but also just being able to find the right books. It'll compare the lowest prices and all of the choices related to whatever it is you choose to search. So in this case if you're needing real estate textbooks then type in real estate and you'll find what you're looking for. Good luck!

  8. Can you rent books via kindle? –

  9. I should probably go and see if I can buy textbooks for Uni at the Co-Op bookshop around the corner over lunch.