Websites offer cheaper books


Jennie Kushner

Thanks to advances in technology and web-based innovation, students have found ways to cut cost on textbooks for the fall semester.

Various Internet websites, along with the SUPe Store, are now offering a book rental program to lower expenditures on textbooks.

On average, students spend about $4,000 in textbooks throughout their college career, said Tina Couch, vice president of public relations for, an online textbook rental and purchasing site.

Search engine scans about 300 websites, helping students compare prices of over 150 million books, said Scott Laming, public relations manager for

“We do the leg work,” said Laming. “Students can compare prices without having to visit multiple sites to help them decide what is the best option.”

Websites noticed that students used books per semester and many implemented a rental program. operates similar to Netflix. Students can shop online, select the longevity of the rental and the order is delivered in an orange box, Couch said.

“Students who rent their text books can save about $2,000 or 80 percent over the course of their college career using,” Couch said. “We offer rentals and digital supplements.”

“Once students are done with the books they put them back in the box and can return the books free of shipping charges,” Couch said. “We will plant a tree on your behalf.” has an iPhone application, allowing students to rent books wherever.

For students who are concerned with getting their books on time for class, offers different tiers of shipping, from overnight to five to seven business days.

The SUPe Store has also integrated a rental program this year.

The SGA approached the SUPe Store about a rental program, which was piloted last year with three titles, said Teresa Shreve, director or the University SUPe Store.

This year the program is in effect and offers about 484 titles for rent for Fall 2010.

Bernadette Chavira-Trull, associate director of books for SUPe Store, said prices vary for each rental title. Students may save up to 55 percent when renting a book instead of purchasing it.

UA students are invited to rent the available textbooks at the SUPe Store’s Ferguson Center, Tutwiler Hall and Law school locations, Shreve said.

Five books covering a wide variety of subjects from the SUPe Store’s Tutwiler location totaled $469.30 without taxes. Using the same books totaled $184.09, including shipping. That is a total savings of $285.21.

Of the five books compared, only one of them was available for rent at the SUPe Store.

Books on the Internet are typically cheaper than those sold at a campus bookstore due to competition, Laming said. Internet sites have to compete nationally, so they must drop prices and have a greater supply. Campus bookstores compete locally and may not have as much stock, he said.

According to, to get a good deal on books, students need to buy used, pay attention to condition, buy books early, consider an older edition, consider renting and sell your books when you’re done.