Textbook rentals for you college types

Rent a textbook?  Isn’t spending a thousand dollars a year on textbooks part of the college rite of passage?!  I always felt bad for the science and law majors that I saw carrying stacks of books in the school bookstore paying upwards of $700 in one go!  Lucky for me, there aren’t too many “International Relations” textbooks per se, but I did grudgingly pay $110 for my International Law casebook, and nearly cried when my French textbook + workbook was $170.  I’ve been reading that e-textbooks are cropping up nowadays but I checked a few sites (textbooks.com, for one) and I didn’t find any of the textbooks that I had to buy in the last four years.

I think textbook rentals might just turn out to be a valid market.  Isn’t that what we basically do anyway?  We buy a textbook – even used it might still be $80 – with no intention of keeping it, and we post it on half.com or find a thrifty underclassman to sell to for $70 at semester’s end.  Sure, there are a few books you might want to keep – again, science and law majors come to mind – but as a recent college graduate, I still have plenty of textbooks sitting around, none of which I want, and I haven’t been able to sell them yet.  (Ahem, my books are for sale here….)

Anyway, it’s nice to see that it’s actually a big publisher that’s trying this out: the Follett Higher Education Group manages my alma mater’s bookstore.  According to the NY Times (linked at the beginning of the post), “The stores will offer about 20 percent of their titles for rent, charging 42.5 percent of the purchase price.”  Now 42.5% isn’t a huge discount for something you’re not going to own… you could buy a DVD for $25 or rent it for $5 or less – that’s an 80% discount.  But for me what’s really appealing is the guarantee that you can send the book away when you’re done with the class!  I’ve mentioned this before: I share a bedroom (and city people might agree with me on this): space is absolutely precious!  I think this might also be important for people who live far away from college too – you don’t want to bother with carting your textbooks back via plane, and we all know how valuable every pound is.  It’s vastly more convenient to be able to sell them off to an underclassmen, even if you won’t make as much as you might selling online.

Whatever you do, don’t sell back to the bookstore!  If your bookstore is anything like mine was, you’re lucky to get $10 for a book you paid $75 for.  My first semester, I stupidly sold all my textbooks back to the bookstore.  What I had paid probably $300 for yielded me about $50 in return.  Stupid freshman.

Personally, I can’t afford (nor do I want to deal with) having unwanted textbooks lying around, so for some people renting textbooks might actually be a viable option.

Let me know if any of you try it out!  (Because, well, I’m perfectly happy to not have to think about buying/renting/reading a textbook for a very long time indeed!)


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