Cheaper textbook alternatives to become more available

While the money saved is an obvious perk, some at the University prefer old-fashioned options over new substitutes.

Katherine Lymn

Textbooks are the latest part of the college lifestyle that are getting a makeover with studentsâÄô efforts to save money, and the University of Minnesota bookstores are working on expanding both their rental and electronic textbook programs to meet that demand. University bookstores Director Bob Crabb said the stores have 15 textbooks available for rent, up 50 percent from last year, and between a growing catalogue of between 200 and 300 available digitally. While renting textbooks is becoming a more popular option, buying an electronic text, which can cost 40 to 50 percent less than a hard copy, is still relatively unpopular. Only 2.1 percent of students this semester have chosen to go digital instead of renting or buying their textbooks. The books currently available to rent are generally for larger classes, and Crabb said he sees renting becoming exponentially more available in the future once the bookstores finish developing a computer system to track renting. âÄúWe still donâÄôt have the system in place that we need to keep track of it all and handle it efficiently,âÄù Crabb said, adding that all renting is currently being tracked manually. About 25 percent of the students who had the option to rent, buy or use a digital copy through the University bookstores chose to rent their books this semester, Crabb said. Students who rent generally pay 35 to 45 percent of the price of a new book. Troy Gerkey , owner of Oak Street Textbooks , which does not rent textbooks, thinks renting is too expensive for students, even calling renting programs âÄúa marketing ploy.âÄù âÄúBuyback price is a good price anyway,âÄù Gerkey said. One competitor advertises a particular math textbook for $33 to rent; at Oak Street Textbooks, Gerkey said you could buy the same book and sell it back at the end of the term with an overall expense of $24. Other students are hesitant to lose the perks of complete ownership of their textbooks. Nursing student Jenn Modell said she does not rent and will not in the future because she wants to keep her textbooks for reference. Digital textbooks are a second money-saving option, though they are not nearly as popular as the rental program. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to take a long time for digital delivery to have as great an impact as it was predicted to have originally,âÄù Crabb said. âÄúI try to explain to them, you know, hereâÄôs this eBook for half the price âĦ most of the time they just donâÄôt even want to consider it,âÄù he said. Chemistry professor Michelle Driessen said she does not currently use electronic textbooks in her classes, but she is considering them because they are more portable. âÄúI know lots of [students] would like to have something that they can touch in front of them, but I have a lot of students drop by my office and they never bring their book because itâÄôs too big and heavy to tow it around campus,âÄù she said. The Student Bookstore in Dinkytown and the newly-opened Stadium Village Bookstore also offer book renting.