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Money in the books
Rent-A-Text program earns $250K at QU, rave reviews nationwide
Quinnipiac students have saved upward of $250,000 this fall alone using the bookstore’s new Rent-A-Text program, and a national survey shows 99 percent of students who rent will do it again.
Follett brought the rental option to the campus bookstore this fall for a few reasons, but for students the biggest value is price.
“At a time when we’re seeing the cost of education and the cost of course materials on the rise, rental really takes a chunk out of that,” Follett Representative Elio Distoala said. “Today it’s the lowest upfront cost option for students, saving them about 50 percent or more compared to the cost of buying a new book.”
Follett surveyed about 12,000 students on Rent-a-Text, and 99 percent of students said they would rent with them again.
Junior Sacha Kaufer saved more than $100 when she rented from the school bookstore this semester.
“I think renting books is beneficial because it saves money,” Kaufer said. “Although you can’t sell back rented books, it’s still better than buying because many times you aren’t able to return the books you buy from the bookstore for money.”
Some community college districts with large enrollments have surpassed $1 million in savings this fall, according to Distoala.
Rent-A-Text has saved students more than $60 million during the fall nationwide.
“Having the flexibility to highlight, dog ear and take notes, having the ability to accept financial aid or campus card as payment, and most importantly being able to rent on campus and return on campus when you’re done — those are all things that add a lot of value to students across the 780 stores that sell Rent-a-Text this fall, and I think that those pieces are really key to success,” Distoala said.
Rent-a-Text has grown from being available in seven stores since its inception in fall 2009 to 780 stores one year later.
“Rental isn’t really a new concept, but anchoring rental with a bookstore is,” Distoala said.
Junior Sarah Barrett prefers popular textbook renting website chegg.com for renting her textbooks.
“Chegg is more well-known compared to other online rentals, and it’s still cheaper overall,” she said.
Chegg.com is the No. 1 source of college textbook rentals, according to a report by Student Monitor LifeStyle & Media in spring 2010.
Textbook manager at QU’s bookstore Siobhan Tivnan said the success of the rentals is going to have a big effect on those trying to sell back books they purchased.
“Say there’s five sections of a class in the fall and only three in the spring; we’re not going to be ordering as many books,” Tivnan said. “It takes those rental check-ins and puts those first, so a lot of these students who thought they are going to get half price back at the end of the semester, aren’t. Even if we are using it again, because we have so many more rentals, [they] get put against what we need for the spring first before buyback.”
However, if you need a textbook for a two-semester class or longer, renting is not a very cost effective option, Tivnan said.
Follett also offers an e-book program called CaféScribe, in which students can highlight and take notes in digital copies of their textbooks, while also having the ability to “friend” other students in the class and share notes. The social media-like program allows students and professors to interact right within a textbook.
“Predominantly today the bulk of demand tends to be for that traditional bound printed book,” Distoala said. “We’re approaching the digitalist age; we’re very much prepared for a digital demand.”
Follett offers nearly 12,000 textbooks titles on caféscribe.com.
“It still represents a nice savings against the cost of a new book; I just think the marketplace isn’t quite there yet,” Distoala said. “We’re prepared for that swing in demand but I assume that would reach a tipping point in the next five or six years.”
The Quinnipiac bookstore has only sold about $2,000 worth of e-books this fiscal year, Tivnan said.
“It’s a hard sell to the students, which kind of surprises me because young people have grown up with technology, but a lot of students who have used an e-book before don’t like it,” Tivnan said.
Photo credit: Anna Brundage