Campus bookstore piloting textbook rental

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Students taking some geology, public relations and math classes this semester at Bowling Green State University can rent their textbooks.

Book rental is being tried by the University Bookstore as a possible way to address national concern over the high cost of course materials. Undergraduates can save about 65 percent off the retail price of a new book by renting.

New, used and rental books for Geology 100, Mathematics 126 and Journalism 340 are shelved side by side at the University Bookstore, with pricing clearly marked so students can see they have a choice. Book rental prices also are listed on the bookstore's Web site.

“We met with Faculty Senate representatives and department chairs, and they were very positive about providing students the ability to rent books,” said University Bookstore Director Jeff Nelson, who added that an ad hoc faculty committee studied the cost of course materials last year.

BGSU Faculty Senate Budget Committee Chair James Evans is among those who endorse the idea of trying textbook rentals. “Books are a significant part of the cost of an education, so finding ways to reduce those costs is important,” the geology professor said.

 
Nelson says the best classes in which to use rental book are lower-level courses, elective courses and introductory courses in various majors.” He admits some faculty don't like the idea of students not keeping their textbooks, but “in entry level courses, this is less of a concern.”

By the end of the first week of spring semester classes—and without any special promotional efforts—all 70 math textbooks and 15 public relations texts available for rental were gone, and 54 of 80 geology books (68 percent), were rented.

The pricing model for book rental is 35 percent of the new book price, according to Nelson. As an example, he said if a new textbook is priced at $100, the price for the textbook used is set at $75, and the rental price is $35.

Because the rental cost is less than half the typical cost of a new book, each rental book must be used for four consecutive semesters for the store to ultimately realize the revenue that would have been generated had it been sold new.

For the pilot project, Nelson identified academic departments willing to participate and courses where the same text was likely to be used for two years. He also looked for course texts that weren't bundled with CDs and other extras, such as password-protected Web sites.

With all that goes into identifying courses and considering the reduced revenue to the bookstore, what's the incentive to offer rentals?

“It's a service to students,” Nelson says. “And, we may not realize a new sale if a student buys the book online or elsewhere.”

This is the second experiment BGSU has undertaken to reduce course material costs for students. Last fall, the University Bookstore and University Libraries teamed up on a Rental-Reserve Project to enable some students to rent textbooks on an hourly basis at campus libraries. That pilot project continues this semester.

# # #

Media Contact: Teri Sharp, BGSU Media Relations Director, phone 419-372-8587 or email tsharp@bgsu.edu.

(Posted January 17, 2008 )