Textbooks: Be Informed When Considering Buying vs. Renting

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Is it best to buy or rent books? The answer is not as simple as it seems. Here are some facts to consider in making the choice that best serves your needs.

Book Rental


  • Most rental programs rent texts at 42.5% of the price of a new book. For a $100 book, that would be $42.50. On the surface, that looks like a good deal.


  • If you’re always busy or are someone who often returns video rentals late, be honest with yourself. What really is the likelihood that at the end of the semester, you’ll pack those textbooks into a box, schlep them to the Post Office or UPS and have them back to the book renter by a specific date?
  • Typically, if a rented book is not returned within the required timeframe, students are charged the full price of the book, plus a penalty fee, making that $100 book now $125, not counting the possibility of added-on shipping and handling fees. Ouch.

Book Purchase:


  • When you buy a $100 textbook, you own it. If something happens to it or you decide to keep it, no worries!
  • If that book is adopted for use for the next semester, you can sell it back at the end of the semester and likely get 50% back what you paid for it.
  • Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte makes it easy on you, too, with remote buy-back stations all around campus during the end-of-semester buy-back period. No packing them up, no trips to the Post Office. Right there – cash for books, done.
  • In this example, the difference between rental and purchase is only $7.50. The convenience may be worth it to you.
  • Cash-in-hand at semester’s end can be pretty sweet.


  • If the professor doesn’t adopt the book for use the next semester, then the book may be worth less and buy-back may not yield you much.

Guaranteed Buy-Back:


Books in the GBB program have all the advantages of purchasing as listed above, plus:

  • GBB textbooks have a guaranteed return of 55%. GBB books pay 55% back, even after the last semester when the book goes into a new edition and no longer has value in the market.
  • Using the same example of a $100 text, if that book was in the Guaranteed Buy-Back program, it would be worth $55 during the end-of-semester buy-back period. If bought and sold back to Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte, the cost to use that book all semester would, in effect, be only $45. The difference between rental and purchase would be $2.50 with nothing having to be packed and shipped.
  • If you purchased that same book USED, you would get the initial 25% discount and pay $75. Then you would get the 55% back, and your net cost would be only $33.75. That’s even cheaper than renting.


  • The program is new and the courses with books in GBB are few at this time. But as more instructors commit to using the same book for 3 years (6 consecutive semesters) and add eligible texts to the program, the stronger the Guaranteed Buy-Back program gets.
  • Not every textbook is appropriate for GBB. “Bundled texts” (with access codes that can’t be sold back) don’t work. GBB is designed for texts used for large courses and intro classes.

You can help by encouraging your instructors to sign their selected texts up for the program.

To learn more about the Guaranteed Buy-Back program, contact Karen Natale in Auxiliary Services: or 704-687-7683. Karen is also available for presentations to student faculty/staff groups who wish to learn more about textbooks and work together to save students money.