I Tried The So-Called "Netflix For Textbooks" - Here's What I Thought

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Fact: College in the United States is expensive.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “For the 2016–17 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was $17,237 at public institutions, $44,551 at private nonprofit institutions, and $25,431 at private for-profit institutions.” Those are insane numbers, and they don’t even include some of the most important necessities – food, toiletries, school supplies, etc. – that students have to pay for. Textbooks in particular can be a huge cost burden for students, and for students who are paying everything out of their own pocket, the price of their mandatory textbooks could dictate whether or not they’re able to afford food for a week or two. So, when Her Campus Nationals presented an opportunity to try out a new, online digital subscription service for textbooks through Cengage, I knew I had to try it for myself. Could this be a solution to the textbook woes that face so many students?

But wait - what exactly is Cengage Unlimited?

Cengage Unlimited is an online, e-book and course subscription service. For one price (you can buy a semester long subscription, a year-long subscription, or a two year-long subscription) you gain access over 20,000 products across 70 disciplines and more than 675 courses, including Cengage’s Mindtap and WebAssign. You can use as many courses, ebooks, and study tools as you want – the price will not go up. And once your subscription ends, you can choose up to 6 ebooks to keep in your digital locker for up to a year – even if you don’t purchase Cengage Unlimited again.

How does it work?

After creating an account and buying whichever subscription works best for you, you’re able to browse through all of the courses, ebooks, and resources included. You can search by textbook name, by discipline, or access code to find what you’re looking for. Once you find the book or course, you can add it to your library and get studying – easy as that. Cengage also offers a print rental option for all of the books for $7.99 + shipping.

So…is it worth it?

Maybe, depending on your major. I’m a senior strategic communications major taking my last 2 major classes and 2 electives (pro-tip for all my underclassman: if you’re up for it, overload yourself in the early semesters so that you can take it easier senior year) so I only need 1 textbook this semester, which is not offered on Cengage Unlimited. But, there are over 20,000 books + courses included, so for those majors who are constantly buying access codes for WebAssign or other Cengage books, Cengage Unlimited is definitely worth your while – I’m looking at you, Math, Business, and Computer Science people. While Cengage Unlimited is by no means cheap (it’s $119 for a semester) it could be a really affordable and beneficial service for students who have to buy multiple Cengage products and access codes each semester. I definitely think it would be beneficial for professors who use Cengage to know about this service so that they can recommend it to their students – I know I always appreciate when my professors let the class know where the cheapest place to get the book is.

As the price of college continues to rise, any service that can help students save some money is one worth knowing about.  To learn more about Cengage Unlimited, you can check out Cengage’s website.