The New York Times recently reported on a business that has taken off called Chegg.com which allows college students to rent textbooks instead of buying and selling books back to University bookstores.
The site works just like Netflix. You select a book to rent and then choose the amount of time you want to rent the book (a semester is 125 days, a quarter is 85 and a summer rental is 60). When you’re done with the book, you send it back, with free shipping. Chegg.com lists the book’s list price and tells you how much you’re saving as you browse.
The site, which claims to have saved students more than $40 million in a constantly updating ticker, also plants a tree for every book rented, sold or bought.
I’ve been a college student for two years now, so I’ve seen every money saving book scheme there is. Frankly, I’ve never been impressed. I’ve tried them all — Half.com, the tents set up at various places around campus, the bookstore itself — and none of them have saved me more than a few dollars with twice the hassle. So I did a little experiment on Chegg.com and searched the book I had to buy a few semesters ago for Statistics 1300H.
The list price for the book was just under $125 depending on which website you consult. If I’m paying list price for books, I’m not eating.
I paid right around $85 for the book on Half.com. The book came in two halves, tattered, without a cover that stayed on. I’m not allergic to duct tape, but this thing was in awful shape. When I tried to sell it back to the University Bookstore, they looked at me like I was crazy and then said they no longer needed that version of the book. It went into the dumpster behind my dorm. I got nothing back for it other than the satisfaction of ripping it up and tossing Statistics out of my life.
Chegg.com rents the book for $48.59 and says the book will be shipped in perfect condition.
It might not be a perfect fit for everyone. With 25% late fees, I can imagine myself looking for my lost keys and finding Friedman’s Statistics collecting dust (and late fees) under the couch. However, in the world of increasing education costs, I just might try it next semester.