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Comparing Textbook Purchase, Buyback and Rental Sites For South Florida Students

​During the heady days of college, all of us had to balance our budgets between pizza, rent, and textbooks. Today, university students have it a lot better than we did when I was in school. With the power of the Internet, students can find the right book from any source on the planet and likely get it cheaper than they would at their university book store.

Even Amazon is in on this lucrative textbook trade. The online bookseller announced a textbook trade-in service earlier this month and it got me thinking: if even the biggest online bookseller is in on this, then there must be a lot of smaller guys doing it too. Right?

Amazon gives credit towards future purchases on their site, rather than cash. The biggest specialist in this textbook venue is Chegg, which offers credit or cash.

Chegg gives free Priority Mail shipping and guarantees delivery within 7 days of purchase. They also provide a no-questions 30-day guarantee. Most book through Chegg are rented rather than purchased, which can have significant savings for the student. Using this, books can cost about half as much as they would otherwise. Chegg also has the feel-good measure of planting a tree for every book rented or purchased.

There is a reason that Chegg is tops in this game, but with Amazon moving in and having the better name recognition, they could find themselves in trouble. With their rental scheme, perhaps they'll still beat out Amazon. Chegg is based in Santa Clara, California, and was founded in 2003.

While not nearly as big as Chegg, this site is operating on the same premise. They rent books at much lower costs than purchase and rentals are priced by the term (semester). Shipping is free and with over a million books on tap, they probably have whatever it is that you need.  They also purchase books for cash and pay the shipping for those too.

Founded in 2007, the site is based in Ogden, Utah.

New to the market, this site focuses on lower-cost books and rentals. Their inventory isn't as large as the other two major players, but their prices are definitely lower. Like the others, rentals are by the term/semester and prices fluctuate according to the time of year (mid-term prices are lower than end/beginning term prices).

This site is older than CampusBookRentals, founding in 2006 and is based in San Diego, California. They received a $6 million cash infusion from venture investors in November this year, which may give then an edge over CampusBookRentals.

There are plenty of others in this space as well, including CollegeBookRenter, based in New Jersey. These other sites are very small and most are new startups with little background.

It's definitely easier to find cheaper options for text books nowadays. Gator 1 Central and Florida Book Store might have some reason to become more competitive. While, so far, Amazon hasn't been much competition (their prices are only marginally lower), the rental sites definitely have something that could put a dent into the traditional college book store scheme.

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Craig Agranoff

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