The Newest Trend: Textbook Rentals
Malls and e-commerce sites are packed with deals on back-to-school basics like electronics, but finding ways to shave the soaring costs of textbooks can be tricky.
“I figure I’m most likely not going to be using the book any further after the quarter is done,” said Peter Eckes, a fourth-year chemistry major at UC Davis. “So why not just rent the book? That way, I’m at least saving some cash and I won’t end up with a stack of books lying around that I’d never get around to selling back or using again.”
Eckes’ rationale may be echoed by other students, leading to the surge in textbook rentals. In a study done by Student Monitor LLC, a college market research firm, students spent an average of $345 on textbooks in fall 2005. By spring 2011, the average had fallen to $252. In addition, a press release by the National Association of College Stores (NACS) stated that students estimate they spend $655 annually on required course materials, down from $702 four years ago.
The National Association of College Stores reports that nearly all college bookstores now offer rental options. The programs can save students between 45 to 66 percent off the price of a new print textbook and is oftentimes less expensive than digital e-books, according to Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the association.
Recently, Amazon.com announced the launch of Amazon Textbook Rental. Now college students can choose from thousands of textbooks to rent for the semester and save up to 70%. The program allows for 130 days of rental with a 15-day extension allowed for a fee. If you keep the book longer, you will be charged the full price.
“College is expensive, and students are always looking for ways to save money on textbooks, which is why we’ve long offered great prices on both new and used textbooks,” said Ripley MacDonald, Director of Textbooks at Amazon.com. “With Textbook Rental, Amazon gives students yet another great option for saving money – it’s now easier than ever for students to get the books they need, in the format they want, at affordable prices. So no matter if a student wants to buy or rent their textbooks, Amazon can be their one-stop shop.”
There are other options besides Amazon, although they’re definitely a juggernaut player in the game. Here are some of the others:
Rent-A-Text. Created by Follett Higher Education Group, students can save 50 percent on average by renting their books from Rent-a-Text. Not only can you rent straight from eFollett.com, but the site gives access to rentals from more than 900 college bookstores across the nation. Want to avoid shipping charges? They tell you where to pick books up, too. Check inReads later this week for an interview with Follett about the company’s evolution and its offering at local schools.
Collegebookrenter.com. This site promises savings up to 85% off the cover price of textbooks. It claims to have the largest textbook inventory on the market and also allows you to sell or buy books new. CEO Chuck Jones says they aren’t offering e-books at the moment but don’t charge customers for shipping costs. And if you’re really into highlighting the margins, Jones promises they’re far more lenient in that regard.
Chegg.com.This site has a huge inventory of books for rent and it recently launched an e-book rental service as well. You can download books to your account and access them anytime on the Web. The only drawback is they’re only available as streaming files, so you’ll need an Internet connection to access them and they can’t be downloaded.
Campusbookrentals.com. They give you a 15-day late return grace period and offer three options for rentals: 55 days (summer), 130 days (semester) and 85 days (quarter). Extra perk: They’re cool with highlighting fanatics, too.