Textbooks are a necessity for every college student—it just so happens that they are absurdly expensive. Although there has been a gradual shift from traditional texts to cheaper, digital alternatives, most individuals are still using physical books; one reason that may be is because university professors themselves prefer using conventional copies. What does that mean for those taking their courses? They also have to buy said books—which typically costs an arm and a leg. A book can easily cost a couple hundreds of dollars; multiply that by the amount you’ll need throughout your college years and the total figure can be startling. However while there’s no doubt that textbooks drain your wallets, students everywhere still need them; in the end, their bank accounts will be taking a hit.
For this reason, the majority of individuals choose to buy their textbooks used; it’s the most economical, and well-known way of getting books. The second-hand book market is huge—no one in their right minds would be throwing them away after using them once after all. Not only are used copies available at the bookstores on campus, but you can also get them from previous students via online services such as Craigslist or Facebook groups. Prices for used books are generally a lot more affordable compared to their retail counterparts; considering this, it’s not too surprising that most students spend much time scouring listings online for their books—every little bit of savings count! However for those who are interested in recuperating a portion of their losses, they still have to re-list them to try to sell the books after their classes are over—which can be quite a hassle.
What if you could just rent textbooks without having to worry about getting rid of it afterwards? Well, you can; textbook rentals are a growing concept that has been adopted by an increasing amount of college book retailers over the years. Similar to borrowing a novel from the library, you simply borrow the book that you need and return it after you’re finished—the only catch is that you do have to pay a small rental fee (which is still less expensive than purchasing a used copy) Depending on where you’re renting the textbooks from, some companies may even let you write and highlight in them—as if you owned them! After you’re done with the study materials, you simply ship it back to where they came from (often, at no charge). Doesn’t that sound like a much more convenient, and wallet-friendly option?
Today in this article, we’ll be focusing our attention on Half.com—a subsidiary of the notorious eBay.com, which offers textbook rental services.
A Short Overview of Half.com
As a subsidiary of the online auction site eBay, Half.com was first established in April 1999 by entrepreneur, Josh Kopelman. After a year of operations, it was purchased by eBay in 2000 for approximately $350 million. Similar to its parent site, Half.com is not a retailer with a physical inventory; instead, they offer a place online for independent sellers to list and sell their items. In contrast to eBay, Half.com also typically contains products and items with ISBN and UPC’s (as opposed to rare valuables on eBay). Currently, the most popular items sold by sellers on the platform are books, especially textbooks.
Often compared to Amazon, plans were made for Half.com to be integrated into eBay itself during the early 2000’s; as a matter of fact, many of its online features at the time had already been added to the parent site. However despite this, eBay ultimately made the decision to keep Half.com running as a separate website, mainly for its role in the textbook market.
The idea of textbook rentals was first introduced and tested on Half.com in the summer of 2011. Unlike some of the other sites out there that offer similar services, Half.com sources their textbooks from individual sellers who choose to list and offer their books for rental; as a result, the company has a continuously growing inventory of textbooks. In contrast to their list prices, the rental prices are often much more inexpensive and affordable; making it an attractive choice for many cost-conscious college students. Since then, Half.com has provided and lent tens of thousands of texts to students across the United States; the fact that Half.com is a subsidiary of one of the Internet’s most popular websites probably doesn’t hurt either.
In addition to the rental of books, Half.com is also heavily involved in the renting of other media such as music, movies as well as video games.
How do I Rent a Textbook from Half.com?
If you’re familiar with how eBay works, then renting a textbook from Half.com should be a breeze! But to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, let’s go over it step by step. After going to their main page on your browser, you want to search for the textbook that you’re looking for by typing its title into the orange search bar. If you’d like your search to be more specific, you can do so by conducing an advanced search; for that, you will need to enter the book’s title, author, ISBN as well as the book format that you’re interested in.
Assuming that you just conducted a basic search, upon pressing the “Go” button, you will be brought to a page of results—these are all books that contain variants of your search string. If you’re having a hard time finding your book title from the list, you can refine the results by selecting its appropriate subject/category from the sidebar on the left. Once you locate the textbook, click on its title to go to its information page; on it, you will see all sorts of details including its author(s), publisher, edition and its rental price. If you scroll down the page, you will also see the usernames of the sellers who are currently renting out the book, as well as the available rental periods (e.g. 45 days, 60 days, 90 days, 125 days).
From there, select the copy, which you’d like to rent by clicking on the green “Add to cart” button next to the price. You will then be brought to a confirmation page of your shopping cart; to rent more textbooks from Half.com, click on “Continue Shopping”, otherwise if you’re done you can proceed to payment by clicking “Proceed to Checkout.” Afterwards, you will be prompted to sign into your account (eBay accounts are linked to Half.com); once you have logged in, you will have to add or select your shipping address. Once that has been confirmed, you can pay for your rental order via credit card or PayPal. As soon as your order has been placed, Half.com will contact you via e-mail with information regarding your delivery date. It is highly recommended that you write down the due date of your textbooks!
If at any time you’d like to extend or purchase your rental book, you can do so by signing into the “My Account” Page; from there, you can either choose the “Buyout” or the “Extend the time period” option. Don’t worry; if you’ve decided to buy the textbook, the amount, which you have previously paid for its rental, will go towards the purchase of the item! If you’ve opted to extend the rental period of your study materials, you can see your new due date on the “Rentals” or “Purchases” pages.
How do I Return My Textbook Rental?
After you’re done with your textbook at the end of the semester, you can return it easily for FREE by printing out a return-shipping label. To do so, go to “My Account” and visit the “Rentals” page; you will want to click on the “Print Return Label” link under the book, which you’d like to send back. All that’s left to do after that, is to stick the textbook in a box, slap the label on the outside of said box, and ship it off back to Half.com at your local postal office. To ensure that the book remains safe in transit, users are advised to follow Half.com’s packaging instructions. Once it has been shipped, you can track the process of the return by clicking on “Return Shipment Information.”
If you’re the type of student that learns better with highlighted text, you’ll be glad to know that Half.com allows you to highlight as well as make notes in their books—just keep it to a reasonable amount!
Half.com and Their Competitive Pricing
Half.com is known for their inexpensive prices—in fact, that’s what ultimately keeps their customers coming. One unique thing that sets them apart from other textbook rental sites is the fact that you can choose your own seller to rent from. As mentioned above, the company does not have any physical inventory nor does it have a warehouse; they instead rely on a number of trusted sellers on the site, who choose to rent out their books. As a result, the student always has control over which rental prices to choose from—is seller A renting out the same book as seller B for $20 cheaper? Renting from A it is!
On top of their already amazing deals, Half.com also has promotional coupons from time to time to help you save even more! The most common ones they give out typically give you 10% off of book rentals or purchases—not too shabby! Considering this, it wouldn’t be too bad of an idea to look for a coupon before committing to your order and making the payment!
The Buyer and Renter Protection Policy
Should you ever feel the need to return your textbook for a refund (e.g. damaged or wrong item), it is recommended that you first contact the seller of your item. To do so, you can take advantage of Half.com’s email forwarding service; go to the “Purchases” page from “My Account” and you will want to press on the “Contact Seller” button—any message entered into the corresponding box will then be directly sent to the user. Once the seller approves of the refund, you will be notified and given the opportunity to return the item within 7 days, after which the funds will then be returned back to you.
As an added layer of protection for their users, Half.com also offers a Buyer and Renter Protection Policy. Focused on providing their customers with the best possible textbook shopping experience, the protection policy covers members for up to a grand total of $750 per every rental order. Under said policy, you are able to file a claim against the opposite user should you ever feel unsatisfied with a transaction. Just remember that for rental items you only have up to 21 days to file a Buyer Protection claim—so if there is an issue with the order, it’s best to get right on it!
For more information on the Buyer and Renter Protection Policy, please visit the detailed rundown available on Half.com.
Customer Service and Support Team
At Half.com, they’re all about you! They understand that their members will inevitably have questions; for this reason, they have organized and put up a help desk, which contains many of their users’ most frequently asked questions. To access it, just click on the “Help” link at the top right hand corner of the website. Once you’ve been taken to said page, you will be presented with a number of categories; select the sub-category that best matches your inquiry and you will be brought to a list of its most frequently asked questions. To make the process even easier, they have even implemented a Help Wizard—a service that helps to retrieve the most accurate responses to your questions, in as little time as possible!
If your question remains unanswered after you’ve gone through the help desk, you can fire off a message to their professionally trained support team via their “Contact Us” form—all you have to do is write a short blurb about your inquiry and press send! Once that’s done, you can expect to receive a reply within 48 hours.
However having said that, sometimes typing it all out can be tiring and tedious. To avoid this, you also have the option of talking to a customer service member directly on the phone. Their contact number is a little difficult to locate on their website so we’ve provided it for you here: 1-800-545-9857.
Something that’s also available, should you need it is their support forums (accessibly from eBay). While it isn’t specific for Half.com and it may not necessarily garner responses from staff per se, it is an extra community where you can get support from other users on the platform. On it, you can also search for the answers to your questions—just think of it as a more interactive version of the help desk!