Tech Hype Blinds Students to Best Textbook Value

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CampusBooks.com exposes surprising reality of cheap textbooks.

The important thing is that students shop around, understand their options, and know what they’re purchasing. Rental or e-books aren’t always the best deal. They need to consider the resale value of purchasing a book.

Digital textbooks (eBooks), textbook rental, and shiny gadgets are all the rage for back-to-school, but new data shows that all that glitters isn’t gold. A recent study by CampusBooks.com shows that buying old-school used textbooks is almost always the best cost value for cash-strapped college students.

CampusBooks, the top textbook price comparison website, compared the total cost of buying and eventually reselling any of the top 25 most popular college textbooks during the 2011 spring semester against simply purchasing the e-textbook, which has no resale value. Seventeen of the top 25 books had e-book options, and only one of these e-books was cheaper than the old-fashioned practice of buying and reselling the used textbook.

Rental had better luck, but still fell short. While the average used book cost more than renting it up front, more than half of the time, buying and selling back the used book at the end of the semester still cost less than renting it.

For example, the textbook Organizational Behavior by Stephen P. Robbins (ISBN 9780136124016), was on average $120.88 to buy used, $75.60 as an e-book and only $66.04 to rent. However, selling back the book for an average of $71.25 meant that the total cost of ownership was only $49.63 for those students who bought and resold the book. That’s $16.41 cheaper than renting, and a whopping $25.97 cheaper than the e-book.

“Rental—and now digital textbooks and e-readers—get a lot of hype. They look cheaper up front. Students jump on that. The important thing is that students shop around, understand their options, and know what they’re purchasing. Rental or e-books aren’t always the best deal. They need to consider the resale value of purchasing a book,” said CampusBooks.com CEO Jeff Cohen.

With the ever increasing number of textbook options, CampusBooks is an invaluable tool for students looking to get the best value.

The data reported here is available for press via the media contact.

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Corianda Dimes

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