Students seek textbook savings off-campus

Textbooks line the Tempe campus bookstore as students prepare for the fall semester. Sun Devil Campus Stores now offer rental programs, saving students an average of 45-66 percent on books. (Photo by Shelby Bernstein)

Students are turning to alternative textbook options to save money, prompting campus bookstores to offer more e-books and rentals.

Sun Devil Campus Stores director Val Ross has worked at ASU for 28 years and said in the last year, more students have begun renting their books.

OnCampus, which conducts research as part of the National Association of College Stores, found rental programs save students an average of 45 to 66 percent on books. The group also found student spending has decreased by 7 percent over the last four years, Ross said.

“It’s a huge success,” he said.

With less than half of the bookstore’s titles offered as rentals, many students still buy new.

With the growing popularity of e-books, Sun Devil Campus Stores are offering more titles. This year, the bookstore is providing roughly 500 e-books, Ross said.

A three-month OnCampus study showed that only about 18 percent of students use eBooks.

Sustainability freshman Shannon Wojcik said she uses e-books for everyday reading rather than for academics.

“It’s easier to bring a book to class rather than flipping through pages on a laptop,” she said.

A 2011 OnCampus study shows that the average full-time student spends less than $750 at their campus bookstore. New titles make up about $450 of the total, with used books costing around $300. Students tend to spend the remainder on apparel and supplies.

Chegg and Amazon provide students with rental alternatives to their campus store.

“I look ahead on Amazon and see if it’s cheaper than at the bookstore,” history education sophomore Katherine Cerino said.  “I rent when I can and usually save a couple hundred, tops.”

Microbiology freshman Baltazar Hernandez also checks on Chegg and Amazon before heading into the bookstore.

“I usually rent from, it’s really cheap,” Hernandez said.

Students can search for books on websites like Chegg and Amazon by title, author or ISBN.

While Chegg doesn’t offer used books for purchase like the campus bookstore and Amazon do, the site tends to be cheaper when it comes to rentals and new books.

Chegg’s price for The Essentials of Conservation Biology was 43 percent cheaper than copies offered at the campus bookstore and The Student Book Center, located near College Avenue and 7th Street.

Amazon’s price for PLAZAS Lugar de encuentros was 57 percent more expensive than on Chegg, and the Student Book Center was 92 percent more expensive.

“In general, we provide the best option and the best value,” Ross said. “With the competition, you always run the risk of renting the wrong book.”

He said the campus bookstores are working on improving customer service, which he hopes will keep bringing students back.

“We’re a part of ASU, we’re a partner, and we’re happy to be a part of ASU,” Ross said.


Reach the reporter at

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.