Reed Introduces Textbook Rental Program
Textbook rental programs have exploded in college bookstores across the country. To test the program’s logistics and relative benefit to students, the Reed Bookstore made five titles available for rental last semester, with around 30 students renting at least one textbook. Some 100 titles will probably be offered for rental next semester.
Thus, students will be offered four options on a title for which rental is available: new, used, new rental, and used rental. A used rental will be 50-65% off the new price of the book, while the price of a new rental will be similar to the used price. Those who rent must sign a warranty assuring timely return of the book, as well as minimal alteration (no missing pages, water damage, etc.). Failure to return the book will result in a fee to recover cost.
Pricing on rentals will likely be highly variable, based heavily on greater market demand. Reed, being a small semester school, does not have the option of holding rentals owned by the bookstore; instead, it partners with another company to provide rentals. The company benefits by having assured stock that will be delivered to them at the end of every semester. It works like an early buyback: the used book company pays an amount (based on demand) that we take off of the price of the textbook at the beginning of the semester, instead of at the end.
Although textbook rentals minimize upfront cost, they may not be the obvious best option. Rentals don’t qualify for any refund after the add/drop deadline. For students taking introductory classes in their major, the textbook will likely serve as a resource past the semester. Rentals also remove end-of-semester revenue boost for those reliant on buyback money. Finally, opting to buy a used book and then selling it back at the end of the semester may also cost less than renting.