When I was a college student living on a lowly work-study salary, few things angered me more than shelling out dough for a required course book, only to have the professor assign a single chapter for reading. (It's been 10 years since I took the class, but I still remember fuming as I paid $30 for 30 pages in From Max Weber.) And don't get me started on science textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars but only net you a few bucks once the class is over.
Online textbook rental service BookRenter wants to ease at least this part of a student's financial pain. As the name implies, BookRenter will rent you a textbook for a set period of time, with the option to extend your rental or even purchase the book as the return deadline draws near. If you choose to return the book, the company provides a prepaid UPS shipping label to minimize the hassle.
The site itself is attractive and easy to use, and I was able to find books from various disciplines in the catalog just by searching for the title. Unlike most used textbooks, BookRenter titles are shipped in new or like-new condition. Of course, the flip side is that you have to return the books in the same condition or face damage fees. (The site will eventually start renting its used-condition books, as well.)
While other textbook rental sites only offer rentals by quarter, semester, or summer, BookRenter offers multiple rental periods--30, 45, 60, 90, or 125 days--with the price set according to how long you're keeping the book. Even if you're renting books for the whole semester, BookRenter's rates are competitive with similar sites. For example, the Max Weber book I mentioned above costs $12.93/semester from BookRenter, $12.98/semester from WhyRentBooks.com, and $13/semester from Chegg (formerly TextBookFlix).
In a perfect world, of course, all these textbooks would be available as digital downloads for you to consume on your preferred reading device. But until that day, you might as well free up some beer money by renting the textbooks you don't need to keep.