Textbook rentals lessen financial burden

Posted by Jean-Ann Kubler

With registration for spring 2011 well underway, many students are looking forward to the next semester, anticipating exciting new classes and dreading ever-rising textbook costs.

Beginning in September of this semester, the Skidmore Shop has attempted to ease the economic burden on students by offering textbook rentals, which will continue this spring.

"We've been looking to add textbook rentals for some time and the program finally came together in January, which allowed us to offer the rental option this fall," Director of the Skidmore Shop Jonathan Neil said.

The Bursar's website estimates that textbooks cost the average student $650 each semester. The average textbook rental is 10-15 percent cheaper than buying the same title used.

If a student is able to rent every textbook for a semester, this can amount to a savings of almost $100.

"All of the books we're renting are new books, so you get the advantage of a clean copy," Neil said. Books are rented for the entire semester and can be returned during finals week.

Students are allowed to make limited highlights and markings in the book as well. "They don't have to come back to us in brand new condition," Neil added. As long as the book is usable at the end of the semester, it can be returned without a penalty.

Not all textbooks are currently available to rent, however. "We work with a third-party provider to be able to rent textbooks to the students, so we're limited by their offerings, which don't always match up to student needs," Neil said.

Though not all titles are available now, Neil believes the program will expand because of its symbiotic nature. "We adopted the program because it's beneficial to the students and to us as a business. If we can make procuring textbooks easier on you, then the store remains a viable option for students. Rentals can relieve a lot of stress on both ends," he said.

As rentals become more of a textbook industry standard, more titles will likely become available to rent. "The industry is really moving in this direction and campus stores are moving with it," Neil said.

About 300 textbooks were rented through the Skidmore Shop for the fall semester, but many students also rented their books from online providers such as chegg.com, campusbookrentals.com and textbookstop.com.

For some students, a lack of information about the Skidmore Shop book rental program dictated their decision to rent online.

"I rented my books from chegg.com, but if I'd known the Skidmore Shop was renting I would have gotten them there. It probably would have been a lot more convenient." Savannah Lancaster ‘13 said.

Lancaster added that she plans to look into the SkidShop rental program for the spring semester. "If it's cheaper or much easier than online rentals, I'll get them here."

Neil also sees a future for online textbook downloads, but not as immediately as rentals. "We've offered textbook downloads for a while now, but they don't come with the same price cuts."

He said there is a common misconception that the bulk of the price of a textbook comes from printing and supply costs.

The cost is actually based on intellectual copyrights, which would not change with a shift to online textbooks.

The increasing popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle and Nook may prompt a change to online textbooks despite the similar cost. The iPad also has e-reading capabilities that could encourage students to use the non-print textbook option.

The main factor keeping students from utilizing e-readers is more emotional than economic. "People really like to have books on their shelves," Neil said.

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