Rental option may ease textbook burden

By Samuel Charles

In an effort to help students save money, the Columbia College Bookstore is now offering students the option to rent certain textbooks. As of fall 2010, about one-third of the books will be available to rent.

Follett, the company that owns Columbia’s bookstore, launched Rent-A-Text as a pilot program at select schools in California last year. Students who used the rental option saved a total of almost $2 million after one semester, according to USA Today.

“The new rental option can save students a substantial amount of money,” said Alex Perez, course materials and text manager at Columbia’s bookstore.

To help students get an idea of what their total book cost will be before buying them, Oasis now lists how much textbooks cost at the Columbia bookstore, both new and used. Though new to Oasis, this feature was already available on the Columbia bookstore’s website.

However, it was not the college’s decision to show the book prices on Oasis.

“There was a federal regulation passed that required schools to display book information that was put into effect this year,” said Mike Marquardt, director of Application Development.

Students can sign up for Rent-A-Text either online or at the store. A state ID, cell phone number, e-mail address and credit or debit card are required as collateral in case the rented books are returned damaged.

Today, many students look to places other than the bookstore to buy or rent their textbooks because they are often cheaper.

“Renting is cheaper, and it all comes down to money,” said Jalil McGee, a sophomore film and video major who transferred to Columbia this year. “I’m definitely going to rent the books unless I absolutely need them from the bookstore.”

Perez said he hopes the new renting option will convince students to give their campus bookstore more consideration.

“We’re hoping to increase visibility and campus relations,” Perez said.

Recently, websites such as, and have become popular alternatives to campus bookstores for college students because of their often lower prices and rental options.

For example, one of the textbooks required for Marine Biology is not available to rent from Columbia’s bookstore. It costs $156.50 for a new book and $117.50 for a used copy at the Columbia bookstore. However, on the book could be rented for the entire fall semester and shipped back via UPS for $54.99.

A recent study was conducted by comparing textbook rentals to purchasing and found there was a disadvantage to renting.

According to the study, students who purchase textbooks and sell them back, using an online buyback, save 50 percent on textbooks, as opposed to students who rent textbooks, unable to resell them via online textbook buyback programs.

Based on the study’s results, if a student bought a book for $100 with the option to sell it back for 50 percent, it would cost the student a total $50. But if a rental company was offering the book for $75 with no buyback option, the student could pay 25 percent more if they rented it.

“I bought two from the bookstore and ordered the rest from Barnes & Noble only because [the bookstore] didn’t have them,” said Alekk Mihok, a freshman audio production major.

Some students said they believe there are advantages to buying textbooks and keeping them after a class ends. Carnell Brown, a sophomore music business major, prefers to keep some of his books after a class ends because they might be useful in the future. Brown said he is especially fond of keeping books pertaining to his major.

Both McGee and Mihok said the new option to rent will attract new customers to the bookstore and bring back old ones.

According to Columbia’s website, the new rental option will cost only a fraction of what buying books would, which will be a welcome choice for many students.

Perez credited Follett for offering the rental option and Columbia for recognizing the opportunity for students to save money.

“Follett realized the need to have this more affordable option and Columbia was willing to go forward with it,” Perez said.