The Latest in Rental Properties: Textbooks

Jan 13, 2010 8:30am

ABC News on Campus reporter Loren Grush blogs: With the spring semester right around the corner, students are packing themselves into campus bookstores to buy textbooks.  While they’ll spend considerable amounts of money, many books will probably never again see the light of day once classes are over.
 
In an attempt to combat this problem, Barnes and Noble College Booksellers is launching a textbook rental program, with books available in hard copy and over the Internet for 50 percent off the selling price.  The program, which will take effect in the coming months, will be an expansion of Barnes and Noble’s pilot program, which operated in 25 of their campus bookstores in the 2009 fall semester. 
 
“As everybody knows, textbooks are certainly expensive,” said Jade Roth, Vice President of Books for Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, who says that students generally spend between $600 and $800 a semester on them. “The professor chooses the books, and the students are expected to buy them.  So as booksellers, we have to connect what the professors want to what the students can afford.”
 
“Students are very vocal in what they like and what they don’t like.  Store managers involved in the pilot program are already hearing positive feedback from students,” Roth said.
 
Roth says the program is meant to serve as just another option for students.
 
“Of course, some students do want to keep their books,” Roth said.  “But a lot of students have core classes they have to take that aren’t in their major.  So this program is definitely for them.”
 
But Barnes and Noble, which has more than 600 on-campus bookstores, isn’t the first to come up with the idea of renting textbooks.  Many students have been using textbook rental websites for years in order to save money.  Arizona State University Student Courtney Farrier has rented her books from chegg.com for the last four semesters.
 
“I haven’t had to rent a book over 40 dollars, and it is good for the whole semester,” Farrier said of chegg.com.  “With costs of books from ASU, I would say that I have saved well over a thousand dollars, which helps with high tuition prices as well.”
 
A similar book rental program was started in 105 stores across the country by the Nebraska Book Co., which serves off- and on-campus bookstores, in December. Amanda Tangeman, a store manager at the Nebraska Bookstore in Lincoln, Neb., said her on-campus store offers only 30 percent of its textbooks for rent — depending on the popularity of a class.
 
Inside the store, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore Katherine Keppen rented a microbiology textbook for less than 50 percent of the original price.
 
“When I try to sell [textbooks] back, they only give you 20 percent back or sometimes they even tell you they won’t buy them back, so I thought I’d try renting it cause it’s only half the price,” said Keppen.  “And the book I rented was $176, so it’s only $85 now, so I think it’s worth it.”
 
Some students even forgo buying or renting textbooks altogether.
 
“I haven’t bought textbooks in about two years,” said Sam Houston State student Luke Turner.  “They are too expensive,” he added, and joked, “you can find just about anything you need to know on Wikipedia.”
 
ABC News on Campus reporters Alina Selyukh and Toby Phillips contributed to this report.

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