September 13, 2007

Website Offers Students Textbook Rental Option

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The recent launch of a book rental website hopes to provide an alternative to textbook shopping for college students across the country.
Apart from the Cornell Store, Kraftees and various popular online bookstores, students can choose to rent textbooks from, which is partnered with According to BookRenter, depending on the book and rental period, students may be able to save up to 75 percent off the retail price on textbooks.
On the website, students can choose to rent a book from 30 to 125 days. The 125-day rental period is sufficient to cover a full Cornell semester, while the 30-day rental period can accommodate shorter summer courses. Prices vary with the rental periods. Renting a brand new copy of Campbell’s Biology, for example, for 30 days only costs $57.95, but renting it for 125 days costs $82.65.
The same book sells at the Cornell Store for $130.00 new and $95.00 used.
Similar to online DVD rental programs such as NetFlix, students are required by a rental agreement to return the book with a pre-paid envelope after the rental period.
According to Laura Sneddon, director of marketing for, renting books is particularly convenient for students who have no interest in keeping their textbooks after each semester. Students who wish to keep their textbooks, however, do have the option of buying them at the semester’s end.
Sneddon also noted the difference between and other well-established online booksellers, such as and the Marketplace of
“The Marketplace is a consumer business. It can be tricky and complicated and not very clear … [problems may include] the edition not guaranteed or late arrival. From BookRenter, we give an exact estimate for shipping … and guarantee the exact edition as shown on the site.”
A potential drawback to is the inability of students to highlight or otherwise mark up the textbooks.
Students, however, may be forced to spend extra money in buying erasable highlighters and Post-It notes. According to Sneddon, this policy may change in the future.
“In the future, we will re-rent books … This is better for students if they can write and highlight in a book. Another nice thing is we can provide nicer rental costs.”
Both the Cornell Store and Kraftees express no intention of adopting a book rental service.
“In order [for a rental program] to work, we have to rent the same copy for six times,” said Margie Whiteleather, strategic projects manager of the Cornell Store. “The challenge of a rental program is the cost … we are not sure if the University would invest in that.”
John Ryan, general manager of Kraftees in Collegetown, estimated a “zero demand” for a local textbook rental service and considered it “not very economical.”
“Books have shelf lives … it’s hard to rent books that are dying,” he said.
However, through the stores’ buy-back policies, students may end up saving more money than obtaining textbooks online.
“[The Cornell Store] sells a new copy for 75 percent of the original price, and we pay 50 percent to buy back new books from students … [it’s] much cheaper than buying online,” said Whiteleather.
Kraftees also buys used books from students for half the original marked price. The store also sells a new copy for only about 70 percent of the original price.
“We technically almost rent the books. The textbook industry is almost like a rental industry,” said Ryan.
Upon learning about the new website, students expressed a mixed response.
“It sounds interesting. I might do some research on it,” said Karl Bitz ’09, who bought this semester’s textbooks from the Cornell Store and Kraftees.
Other students have already developed their own strategies to save money on textbooks.
While waiting for online delivery of this semester’s textbooks, Jeff Chen ’10 simultaneously bought the exact same books from the Cornell Store and used them in class. Due to the Store’s seven-day return policy, he was able to return them once his delivery arrived.
Chen said he would not consider using
“[It’s] expensive … because I cannot sell the used books back.”