Anders was the only bookstore to provide book rentals in Auburn this semester, offering immediate savings on more than 100 titles.
“You pay half of the new price whether it's a used book or a new book, and then we hold your credit card number in the system, and if you don't return your book, you get charged,” said Julie Ward, Anders textbook manager. “If you do return your book, everything is wiped out of the computer.”
Anders is owned by Nebraska Book Company and was one of the company's first stores to offer book rentals.
“The rentals provide the student with a much lower price out-of-pocket, and it just seems to be a choice a number of students would prefer over buying books, so we though that we would launch a program to help stores meet that need,” said Jerry Hiller, vice president of sales for Nebraska Book Company.
Hiller said the company began looking into book rentals to compete with Internet sites.
“Obviously, with the Internet and a number of book rental companies out there, students are going to the Internet a lot more to find their course materials,” Hiller said. “In order to compete with that, the on-campus stores need to offer a program that is competitive, so the students can stay on-campus.”
Renting books from an on-campus bookstore not only saves money, but provides students with convenience, assures that they find the correct books and eliminates shipping hassles and fees, Hiller said.
“It's all in an effort to provide that service locally to the students and make it convenient for them, and in turn, it'll be good for the store,” Hiller said.
J&M Bookstore will begin its book rental program during the summer.
“It's another way to lessen the cost to the students, and it's the buzz thing to do right now, so we're going to do it,” said Trey Johnston, CEO of J&M Bookstore. “We've got the software installed and have picked out the books we're going to use. We'll have it ready to go by May 20.”
Johnston said the summer will be a trial period for the program.
“Most of the books we're going to do this summer as we try it out are going to be used books,” Johnston said. “You've got to have a commitment from the instructors that they're going to use the book more than once to get your money out of it.”
J&M's prices will be similar to Anders'.
“We're going to start renting books at basically half the price of the book, as long as they bring them back at the end of the semester,” Johnston said. “If they don't bring them back, there is a substantial fee.”
Big Blue Bookstore and The Auburn University Bookstore are still discussing possibly having a book rental program in the fall.
Justin Free, junior in building science, rented three anthologies from Anders for his world literature class.
“If you bought them as a three-pack, it was $90, and I paid just over $50 for them,” Free said. “So I saved a good bit of money.”
Free said he would rent books again next semester.
“It was great—I found the books to be cheaper as long as you meet the contract requirement to turn them in by May 5,” Free said. “It was a great opportunity to save money and get the textbooks you need.”
With the recent release of the iPad, some students have invested in digital.
“Up to this point, even though digital course material has been around for quite a while, and the readers that are available to view that digital material have been around for a while, customers haven't grasped onto the technology in large numbers,” Hiller said.
Hiller said the price difference between digital and traditional textbooks is not large enough to make a substantial difference.
“If you have to spend three or four hundred dollars on a device to read it on, what's the benefit of that?” Hiller said.
Traditional books have so far consistently outsold digital books.
“When you think about the book, it's evolved over a long period of time into its current form,” Hiller said. “It is very user-friendly, and I think students have continued to make a choice that they prefer a traditional textbook over a digital book, whether they're reading it on a computer or on a Kindle or an iPad.”