The bookseller will allow college students to borrow course volumes for a feeBY MAE ANDERSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. is launching a textbook rental program for college students, making it the newest entrant in a growing field.
The new program, available though campus bookstores or the stores’ Web sites began as a pilot program in three of its 636 campus bookstores in the fall. It has now been expanded to 25 bookstores.
I think what makes this huge is B&N’s reach. Two of the three campuses at which I teach have campus bookstores affiliated with it (my son’s college makes a third that directly affects my family). The third uses Follett, also mentioned in the article.
Textbooks are a huge hidden cost of higher education. I think parents and students so readily get sticker shock because so many of them have been beneficiaries of the public school system, which provides textbooks. Even at public colleges and universities however, no one is immune to buying textbooks (certain populations do have vouchers).
At the same time, increasing consolidation of textbook publishing houses (larger firms gobbling up smaller ones) drives frequent revisions by authors in their “stables.” Massive marketing campaigns, including mailers and the provision of unsolicited examination copies of these frequently revised textbooks, all drive up cost.
College bookstores themselves are caught between having to be the last resort for students and the students’ desire to spend as little as possible on textbooks. Effectively we already have a situation in which textbooks are often rented, but with further skimming by those dealing in aftermarket texts. Students get nowhere near the purchase price of textbooks, and yet pay an increasingly greater percentage of the price of a new book for an old one.
As long as provisions are made for students to keep particular books, economics will drive adoption for students. At first blush this seems to work for students, so I think we can expect more widespread adoption.