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Renting textbooks provides new alternative to purchasing

by Laura Wainman,

Many college students know the experience of purchasing a new paperback psychology book that costs $150, and then never even cracking it open during the semester. Matters become worse when students attempt to sell it back and discover the professor is using a newer edition next year and they are now permanently stuck with the book. In a hurting economy, this is not an investment all students can afford to make.

In response, a number of online companies have been created that allow students to rent their required textbooks, keep them for the duration of their course then return them when the course is done. The most popular renting sites include, and

Textbook rental programs allow students to save money on their textbooks as well as skip the long lines at their campus bookstore. Many of these companies offer additional incentives such as free return shipping, the option of extending your rental period and even the option of purchasing the book for the cover price, minus the rental fee.

Senior Liz Seckerson has bought textbooks from sources outside the campus bookstore, but is unfamiliar with the concept of textbook renting.

"I think it is a good concept and I would definitely consider it, but I would still want to compare prices," Seckerson said. "When I buy a book I can return it and get some of that money back at the end of the semester, but if I rented that wouldn't happen."

Elon's Campus Shop manager, Kathy Scarborough, expressed some concern regarding textbook rental programs.

"While the smaller rental fees are enticing, there are drawbacks that many students overlook," Scarborough said. "Rental companies have to use old editions, which is not beneficial to students, particularly those in majors where the material is changing constantly. Elon is a cutting-edge university and it would be disadvantageous for our students to be taught with old materials."

Some universities have already implemented a textbook rental program for their students. Appalachian State University has rented textbooks to students since 1938 and requires all undergraduate students to participate in the program. The maximum cost of a semester's worth of books for a full-time student is $100.

"The greatest advantage of the program is that every student at our university has access to the required textbooks no matter how big a class is, or how much the book costs," said Michael Coston, Appalachian State's university bookstore director. "We don't want our students to worry about whether they can afford their textbooks."

Seckerson said she would like to see Elon consider implementing a textbook rental option, but admitted she would be more inclined to buy from the campus bookstore if she could receive a fairer value on returned books.

Elon does not have any plans in the near future for starting a similar program on campus.
"It is a more difficult program than anyone would anticipate," Scarborough said. "Aside from the academic ramifications of using old course materials, there would be a huge financial startup cost. It may sound great, but it is not as easy as you think."