Manuals 101: Before Buying Or Leasing, Here’s What You Need To Know BU today

There’s no getting around this: textbooks can be expensive. The average student will spend $ 1,240 on books and supplies this year. But with the acquisition options that include rental, digital downloads, and online price comparisons, you don’t necessarily have to blow your budget by purchasing equipment for organic chemistry or the WR100.

“Students have the option of renting books and getting digital versions, resulting in huge savings,” says Kurt Mahnke (CAS’04), general manager of Barnes & Noble at the BU in West Campus. “The pandemic has definitely accelerated the willingness of students to choose digital material. Last year we saw a 62% increase in digital purchases. And judging by our first orders, this trend will continue.

Want a physical copy, but unsure whether to buy or rent? For example, if you are following a lab that requires a binder, you are probably better off buying a book directly. If you know you’d like to keep a book after your class is finished, or if you like to write in the margins, you might as well buy it.

If you know you’ll only need a book for a semester, you might want to consider saving money by renting. Remember to return your books before the return deadline to avoid any charges. (Change your mind about renting? That’s okay: many retailers offer a buy-out option at the end of each semester for students who have rented their books.)

Below are a few options to consider before getting your textbooks for the semester.

Barnes & Noble at BU

If you think that buying from the school bookstore means having to wander through a maze of shelves in search of the right shelf label and the right course number, think again.

“We encourage students to order through our website,” says Mahnke. “Most of our business has evolved online; it’s a much smoother experience.

Currently, 84 percent of the library’s titles are available for rental and 39 percent are available as e-books. To buy online, all you need to do is access your class schedule on the student link. There you will find a “Buy Books” tab – click on it and it will automatically fill a basket with all the books needed for your lessons. Once you’re in your shopping cart, you can choose the book format you want to buy or rent (used, new, e-book, physical copy, etc.) and then pay in advance. The bookstore will send you an email when your order is ready to be picked up.

Of course, if you want to shop in the store, you can. “We still service a significant amount of physical purchases and rentals,” says Mahnke. Simply prepare your list of books and the course and section numbers.

Online Markets

Amazon, of course, remains a top destination for students looking to buy or rent new and used textbooks or eBooks. Rather spend your money elsewhere? Try sites like Chegg or Or take advantage of services that let you compare prices from various retailers: BookFinder and Campus Books scour the web for the best deals on new and used books. Additionally, many markets offer buy-back options, which means you can always resell your purchased books and get some of your money back.

And never underestimate Facebook when it comes to textbooks. Each promotion has a Facebook group where students regularly sell their used books.

Need literature or non-fiction for a writing class? Try ThriftBooks, advises Rusty Gorelick (COM’22). “If I’m taking an English class that requires regular books, or even want to read something for fun, I order from ThriftBooks because it’s cheap,” he says.


Don’t need a hard copy? Try to find out if the publishers of your textbooks provide digital access to their titles. Companies like Pearson and Cengage, two major publishers of textbooks, offer digital subscription services that allow users to access electronic texts and study tools at various prices. Just make sure a) your specific title is included before signing up, and b) the hardware is compatible with your laptop or tablet.

Also, keep in mind that mainstream publishers are more likely to have digital capabilities than smaller, more independent publishers, but it never hurts to check.

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