Renting Books a Viable Option for Students

Kristen Schaefer spent $260.95 on her textbooks this semester — and she didn’t even purchase the full set.

"I couldn’t bring myself to buy the other two because they were too expensive," Schaefer (sophomore-kinesiology) said.

As students like Schaefer deal with the current recession, looking for deals on textbooks has become increasingly important.

With that in mind, renting textbooks to cut costs is becoming an increasingly viable option for students. Web sites like and allow students to rent textbooks for 30 to 70 percent of the sale price.

Twelve universities — including the California State University, the Florida State University and the University of Kentucky — have implemented Rent-a-Text, a textbook rental program, at their campus bookstores. Penn State has not signed on.

"We will analyze the pilot [program] through fall term and tweak," said Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations for The Follett Corporation, which runs Rent-a-Text. "Our plan is to expand. Students are happy, and campuses are happy."

Florida State University’s bookstore is offering about 30 of the most popular books on campus as rental titles for 42.5 percent off the normal price, manager Mike Duffy said.

"You realize the savings up front," he said.

Students using Rent-a-Text are required to give their name, e-mail address and credit card number when renting a book. If the books are not brought back by the date given in sellable condition, the student is then charged 75 percent of the book’s price and a processing fee.

DiStaola said the rental return scheme is "workable for students," as it allows for normal wear-and-tear, highlighting and underlining. But water damage is a deal breaker, he said.

Justin Ross (junior-mechanical engineering) said he had never heard about online rental Web sites, but he would consider using them "for Gen Eds and classes you don’t need."

"I would be a lot more careful," he said. "I wouldn’t bring it to and from places. I’d leave it in my dorm and I’d put a cover on it to keep it from getting scratched."

John Lindo, general manager of the Student Bookstore, 330 E. College Ave., understands that textbooks are expensive, but noted that prices are set by publishers, not individual stores.

Students save more, he said, when professors use the same textbooks for at least three years in a row.

"It drives down prices and helps students," he said. And buying a used textbook and selling it back could provide the same savings that renting a textbook would, he said.

Theresa Smith, company spokesperson for, said students should compare prices between renting and buying used books.

"It really pays to do searches," she said. "If you have a list of eight or nine books and you spend 20 minutes going through [], it saves." (Daily Collegian Penn State)

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