September 10, 2012

Cornell Store Expands Book Rental Option by 80 Percent

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As students attempted to save money when buying textbooks and course packets this year, Cornell Store employees tried to help mitigate the cost of their class materials  — expanding the number of titles available in its textbook rental program by 80 percent since last year, according to Margie Whiteleather, strategic projects manager for the Cornell Store.Rental textbooks — which first became available as part of a pilot program in fall 2010 — now comprise more than 15 percent of books in stock for the fall semester.Whiteleather said it was important for the Cornell Store to make books more affordable for students due a sharp increase in textbook prices over the last decade. “For a long time we’ve offered textbook sell-back” which usually gives students “a fair amount of money back,” Whiteleather said. Still, she said that the Cornell Store cannot guarantee that it will buy a book back from a student at the end of the semester; therefore, offering a rental option allows the store to “guarantee savings up front” for students.Publishers’ book prices have risen six to seven percent, according to Whiteleather — outpacing inflation rates by nearly twice the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Still, some students noted that the price of a rental for many textbooks was comparable to the price of a used copy of the book and often, not worth the trouble. “Essentially, the question is, ‘How much money is worth not having the hassle to return it at the end of the semester?’” Michael Patashnik ’16 said.Although he said he only chose to rent because there were no used copies of his books available, Patashnik rented one of his books — and estimated that he saved about $60. Luke Guerrero ’16 said he also chose to rent only one of the nine textbooks he purchased at the Cornell Store because, for the other eight books, “there wasn’t enough of a [price] difference between the used and rental copies to make renting an incentive.”But Guerrero said that he still saved money by renting his book instead of buying a new copy. He rented a textbook for $70 that would have cost him $211.75 if he had purchased a new copy, he said.“Even if I sold it back, the profit that I would’ve made back wasn’t as much as its cost, so I saved money in the long run,” he said.In addition to expanding its rental option, the Cornell Store also introduced an online price comparison tool last year, which allows students to view textbook prices alongside those offered by competitors. Students can also purchase their books from several different vendors directly from the site.“We just want students to have options and to understand the prices,” Whiteleather said. “Cornell has always been in the lead in providing technology solutions for students.”Despite the option to buy books from other vendors, 80 percent of the items students purchase from their online shopping carts are still purchased directly from the Cornell Store, according to Whiteleather.Chiaki Soejima ’16 said she compared textbook prices online and estimated that she saved about $50 by renting her books from the Cornell Store instead of buying used editions. Soejima said she would have purchased her books through another online vendor, but did not want to bother with the costs and hassle of shipping.“If students can’t find any good deals online … renting is better. But if they can find a cheap one online, then they might as well do that,” Soejima said.The price comparison tool also includes eBook offerings, though, according to Whiteleather, fewer than than one percent of books purchased through the Cornell Store’s site have been in eBook format.“There has been very limited interest in eBooks,” Whiteleather said. “Students have been more interested in interacting with an actual book.”

Original Author: Dara Levy