By Lauren Leatherby
The Arkansas Traveler, U. Arkansas
(UWire)—After paying tuition, housing, student fees and more, students then face another significant blow to their wallet: paying, on average, more than $500 for their textbooks every semester, according to the College Board. Textbook rental programs, fairly new both on campus and on the Internet, allow students to save a lot of that money.
U. Arkansas Bookstore's textbook rental program, inaugurated last August, offers average savings of 55% off the price of new textbooks, according to a press release.
"I think renting textbooks is a great option for students," UA senior Sarah Guinn said.
"It's very frustrating being stuck with a book that I only intend on using for one semester," Guinn said. "I haven't looked to see if I'm able to rent any of my books for this semester, but if the option is available, I will probably take advantage of it."
The rental selection has grown greatly since it began last fall with 400 titles. This year, the number of books available to rent has doubled, with now more than 800 titles. There are even more titles available online.
Students can rent textbooks in the store or can order their textbooks online. Textbooks are shipped free of charge, according to the website.
More and more students are catching on to textbook rental programs in order to stretch their precious dollars. Renting from the University Bookstore could potentially save students hundreds of dollars, but other students keep searching for an even lower rental price.
"Renting books is a great option, and I would challenge students to look around Fayetteville and online on websites like Chegg, DealOz and Amazon to save them the most money on books," said junior Mike Norton.
Often lower prices may be found elsewhere, but after a quick online search, many of the lowest prices were found on the University Bookstore's website.
For instance, at the time of press, to rent the book Macroeconomics by Gregory Mankiw from the University Bookstore would cost $39.03, according to its website. The same book would cost $59.99 on Chegg.com and $43.47 on Dealoz.com. To buy the book new from Amazon.com would cost $138.53. Biology by Kenneth Miller was $22.39 on the University Bookstore website, while it was $48.99 on Chegg.com and $42.43 on Dealoz.com.
Despite great deals on renting textbooks, many students still prefer buying their books so that they can keep them for semesters and years to come. The best deals can often be found online, but students can also find them at various places across Fayetteville, including the Campus Bookstore.
Students who rent their textbooks and decide that they want to keep their book will be able to. At the end of the semester, students are allowed to pay to keep their book, and the fee they paid to rent the book will go towards the cost of the book.
Unless students decide to buy their rented textbooks at the end of the semester, they will need to return them on the last day of finals. No need to mark it on the calendar, though, because University Bookstore staff will send out a reminder a week before finals to return the books.
There's also no need to worry about keeping rental books completely spotless. The University Bookstore's website states that "general wear and tear of the textbook and minimal highlighting is allowed." There are, of course, restrictions against missing pages, water damage and excessive marking.
While it may seem that the UA would lose money from the rental program, that's not the case, said Ali Sadeghi, director of the University Bookstore. Because the UA will be participating in the renting program with 10 to 12 other bookstores, the bookstore will get to save a lot of money by using each book more than it normally would.
"With this model, books that [UA students] may only be able to use once or twice are sent to other universities for use," Sadeghi said.
It took the bookstores a long process to perfect the model that they are using today.
"The idea for the textbook rental program came about three years ago," Sadeghi said. "It spawned from the need to reduce the prices of textbooks for students, in particular the front-end price for students."
After significant research in collaboration with 10 to 12 bookstores across the country, the bookstores' directors developed the current model of renting textbooks. With this model, the bookstore works with wholesalers and even publishers to lower prices.
"Basically we came up with the conclusion that everybody really wanted rental books," he said.
That conclusion was likely encouraged when Associated Student Government senators passed legislation that showed student support of the textbook rental program. ASG Senators Carl Monson and Mike Norton authored the resolution after 2009-10 ASG President Mattie Bookout gave them the idea to meet with the bookstore's director.
"He and his staff had already finished quite a bit of research about rental programs at other universities as well as online sites," Norton said. "Our goal for the legislation was making sure that the rental price was fair to both the students and the bookstore."
More and more students are catching onto textbook rental programs in order to stretch their precious dollars, and hopefully the trend will continue with the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.
"Every penny that we can save our students is good," Sadeghi said.