Bookstore offers textbook rental option

Those hitting the campus bookstore this week may notice at least one big change-more than a quarter of the books usually sold for GW classes are available for rent at a lower price this year, in a new program designed to reduce the amount of money students spend on textbooks.

“Rental adds to our offerings, and it helps us deliver a ‘bookstore of choices’ to the GW community,” said Bob Blake, the bookstore’s manager.

The new experiment was initiated to solve economic and environmental concerns of many students about purchasing expensive textbooks at the beginning of each semester. Students can select the rental option for books on the store’s website at a reduced price compared to purchasing the product at its highest price.

Rent-A-Text is a national program created by the Follett Higher Education Group, the organization that provides course materials and textbooks to GW. Blake said that bringing the new option to campus this fall would result in a more pleasant situation for students and professors alike when it came to getting books for each semester.

“This is a collaborative model, largely based on the use and reuse of a textbook or course materials,” he said. “We’ll work with faculty to maximize student savings through rental.”

Elio DiStaola, a spokesperson for Follett, said that the rental program, which is in 780 bookstores nationwide, has allowed students to save around 50 percent annually in costs.

“Paying with financial aid, converting a rental to a purchase, and avoiding shipping and returning books in-store are all realities that can’t be found with other renter retailers,” DiStaola said. “We’re renting books for less than the cost to put them on the shelf.”

The call to transform the expensive textbook industry has been increasingly louder throughout the past few years. A federal regulation, The Higher Education Opportunity Act, went into effect on July 1 and requires universities to post the price of course textbooks before students choose to register for a class.

Online groups, like the popular Chegg.com and Amazon, also offer reduced prices on thousands of college-level textbooks. For the eco-conscious, Chegg advertises that it will even plant a tree for each textbook that is rented.

While Blake said it was too early to determine how much students were saving this fall on choosing to rent books over purchasing them in the bookstore, he said that he expects students to be appreciative of the effort.

“Students have been very receptive to the new option,” Blake said.

DiStaola agreed that if the program works for students this year, the bookstore should expect to see increasing amounts of rental options in the long-term.

“If the trend continues as we have seen in other university bookstores nationally,” DiStaola said, “rental will be a very popular option.”

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