Textbook rental hits bookstores

(Amanda Stidd/Grand Central Magazine)

When Kelly Houghan looked up the price of her Chemistry book, she was overwhelmed to see that it cost $110 from the CMU Bookstore. Houghan didn’t want to pay that much for a textbook, so she contemplated renting the book instead.

“I have been ripped off in the past when I tried to sell books back, and I was afraid I wouldn’t get much money back even if I could sell it,” Houghan said.

After weighing the pros and cons, she decided to rent her Chemistry book for $70, which saved her $40.

This is the first semester the Student Book Exchange, or SBX, and the CMU Bookstore gave students the option of renting textbooks.

“The option to rent books from the SBX benefits the customer because we become part of the solution to expensive textbooks, rather than the problem,” SBX General Manager John Belco said.

The SBX made 440 titles available to rent for Fall 2010 and about 25 percent of the store’s fall title list was available for rent. This semester, rental revenue for the Bookstore was just short of 8 percent of their total textbook sales.

“Clearly students would rather buy if given the choice, but overall the rental program was well received,” CMU Bookstore Director Barry Waters said.

An advantage to renting is that students immediately know how much money they saved.

“I rented a book from the Bookstore because it was significantly cheaper. If I bought the book I wouldn’t have gotten as much money back for it,” sophomore Kelly Houghan said.

Often students try to return their books at the end of a semester and are disappointed when they don’t receive as much money as they paid for them. One reason for this is if a professor plans to use a newly printed edition, students cannot get their money back for the older edition.

“I like to rent books because there is no hassle to try and sell them online or to the bookstore at the end of the semester,” junior Marlee Burggraaf said.

Even though renting is an option at the SBX and Bookstore, many students continue to buy their books.

Amy Lindstrom is a junior majoring in Communication Disorders. She chose to buy her books because they relate to speech and hearing, and she will keep them for future reference.

“Buying is still preferred, but we will definitely keep the option to rent available,” Belco said.

Both buying and renting books from the SBX and Bookstore have advantages and disadvantages. Whether students buy or rent their textbooks, the option to rent gives them more choices and opportunities to save money.