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Can You Rent Textbook Access Codes?

Is it possible to save money by renting access codes instead of buying? Direct Textbook has the answer

One question we’re commonly asked is whether students can rent textbook access codes to save money over buying. On the surface, it doesn’t seem as though renting access codes would be possible – they’re intended to be used once, after all, and will only work for a single user. However, a quick search on Direct Textbook yields dozens of access codes that have the option to rent or buy. What gives? Can you rent access codes?

Not really. Even though many individual access codes are available to rent or buy, rented access codes are no different than those that are purchased. Publishers know that the word “rent” along with a slightly-lower fee (based on the duration of access) converts more customers than the word “buy” with a higher fee and longer access. Access code “rental” is a marketing tool with very little distinction from access code buying.

That said, access code rental is purposefully cheaper than buying, so you can save money by renting access codes – just be sure they don’t expire before your course is over.


Textbook Rental Guide: What You Need to Know


What about renting access codes to others?

If you have an access code for a popular textbook, you might have considered renting it to others. You can purchase DVDs and rent them, after all, and you can do the same with textbooks. Access code publishers maintain that there is a difference between physical, tangible products such as DVDs and textbooks and software-driven products such as access codes. That is to say, you’re not buying a product; rather, you’re buying the right to use a product for a period of time.

We’re not copyright attorneys, but it seems as though that distinction would legally prohibit you from renting textbook access codes. Because you never own the product to begin with, you never have the rights associated with “first sale.”

In addition, attempting to rent access codes could prove troublesome. Since they’re software-driven, publishers can lock out users who share access. They can also track the original buyer, making it very easy to get into legal hot water. Even if it were legal to rent access codes, fighting a lawsuit could prove financially devastating.

Ultimately, textbook access codes are meant to be used one time, by one person, for a specific duration. Any use outside of that could violate copyright law. The bottom line? Feel free to save money by renting access codes directly from approved sellers, but don’t try to rent them to others.