Going to university or college may be a big dream for many young Canadians, but it can also cost a small fortune. From the tuition to the textbooks, it all adds up quickly. But now, a new service is promising to help students save money on course materials by renting textbooks.

Rachel Dineen is a York University student who used the website www.textbookrental.ca to get books for her courses. She says one book she needed was $120 to buy -- but just $60 to rent.

"For students trying to pay rent and save money, every little bit really helps," she said. 

The website is run by Michael Stock and Gershon Hurwitz. Students order the books online and they are sent in the mail.

Stock says: "I think students are tired of paying for expensive books and let's face it many students use books for school and when their course is over they never open them again so this is a great way to save money."

You can rent the books for two, three, four months or longer. The website claims you can save 50 per cent to 75 per cent on books for school. The website also has a buy-back program where they purchase books from students.

You can check the website to see if the titles you have are worth any money. Dineen says: "It's a great option as poor students can always use the cash."

Key Points:

  • Students select textbooks on the website (www.textbookrental.ca) and can save up to 75% on every book
  • The textbooks are then shipped directly to them. Once the semester is over, they slip the textbooks back into a Canada Post envelope with a free return shipping label
  • There are also 11 drop-off depots where people can sell their textbooks
  • Students can also earn money or credit towards textbooks by becoming ‘ambassadors' and referring others to the site

Additional Key Points:

Renting Textbooks on Campus

  • In 2010, six university and college book stores participated in a pilot textbook rental program called Rent-a-Text (Carleton University, University of Winnipeg, Humber College's Main and Lakeshore campuses, and St. Clair College campuses in Windsor and Thames)
  • Students who took part could expect to save at least 50% per textbook
  • The University of Toronto now also offers students to rent texts, allowing them to return the books when they're finished and save about 40% of the cost
  • Textbook rentals have become quite popular in the U.S. and are starting to catch on in Canada

Electronic Textbooks

  • In 2007, Montreal's Concordia University became the first post-secondary institution in Canada to offer e-textbooks
  • Now, more Canadian universities and colleges offer e-textbooks which are sold online or in campus bookstores but the concept is still catching on
  • The e-textbooks can usually be accessed for a semester or school year and then the subscription eventually expires
  • They are often a lower-priced option to traditional hardcover books and can not only be viewed electronically but printed as well
  • However, even though students might be able to save money by purchasing an e-textbook, they might save even more by selling their old hardcover books at the end of the semester