The stress and financial hardships of textbook buying may soon be a thing of the past, as a vast array of textbook rental options are expected to debut or expand this year. According to a recent article in The New York Times, students will have increasing options for renting, instead of purchasing, the required books for many common courses. Rental prices are usually substantially discounted from the retail value of the book and students who rent textbooks will not have to worry about whether or not the bookstore will buy back their text at the end of the semester.
A number of colleges and universities have unveiled on-campus textbook rental programs in recent years, making the texts for popular introductory courses available for a small fee. More bookstores have begun to get in on this, with Barnes and Noble announcing a pilot program this year that will allow students at a few colleges to rent textbooks from their campus bookstores. These programs allow students to rent textbooks as easily as they can buy them from the campus store, though they're still only available at a handful of colleges and for a handful of textbooks.
Several websites have emerged in the last couple years offering online textbook rental services to students anywhere in the country. These sites often have a wider array of books available for rental, though after shipping costs are figured in, their discounts may not necessarily be as deep as those offered by some bookstore-based rental programs. Similar to buying textbooks online, online rentals also require some forethought and don't work well with last-minute schedule changes. Students have to order their books early enough to have them in hand by the time they begin receiving reading assignments.
Addressing this need for immediately available content is one publishing house that recently announced plans to enter the textbook rental market. One company, Cengage Learning, plans to rent a number of its most popular titles to students and make the first couple chapters of each book available online to customers who have rented a physical text. This reduces the stress of waiting for the book to arrive.