Book rental programs gain popularity

In an interview with the Daily last May, University of Minnesota Bookstores Director Bob Crabb said they werenâÄôt planning on offering textbooks for rental. But over the summer they took another look and decided with increasing textbook prices, they had to give renting a try. While Crabb said last semesterâÄôs pilot rentals were well received, students will have to wait at least a semester for them to expand on the nine titles theyâÄôre offering for rent this semester. The textbook rental bandwagon seems to be gathering speed as University bookstores join the Dinkydome Student Bookstore in offering rentals. But Oak Street Textbooks in Stadium Village is forgoing the option for now. The Student Bookstore was teeming Tuesday morning as students scoped prices and lined up to purchase âÄî or rent âÄî spring semester textbooks. This semester SBS has about 1,000 titles for rent, manager Pradeep De Noronha said, and is willing to work with students to rent books not designated with a rent tag. Elementary education sophomore Bridget Bachman was shopping at SBS on a friendâÄôs recommendation, and said they allowed her to rent a text even though it wasnâÄôt marked âÄúrentable.âÄù University bookstoresâÄô rental offerings are limited because theyâÄôre cumbersome to process, Crabb said, and expanding will require a computer system update. He said the updates should be complete by spring 2009 at the latest. Crabb said renters must keep texts clean, while De Noronha said SBS allows students to write and highlight in rented texts. De Noronha said the store had not rejected any returned fall semester rentals due to damage. They are, however, still waiting on 15 students to return texts from last semester. De Noronha said they will hand the studentsâÄô debt over to collections by Friday âÄî but as of now, theyâÄôre not charging late fees for fall semester books just now being returned. SBS rented thousands of texts fall semester and De Noronha said they plan to continue renting at their current location and at a new store, expected to open fall 2009 in the Stadium Village Mall . To make renting financially feasible for University bookstores, Crabb said they need to rent texts out four or five times. That means choosing relatively new books unlikely to go out of print âÄî or eliciting a commitment from professors to stick with a certain text. Though Crabb said heâÄôd like to avoid requiring something like that, he added they might have to in order to expand the program. Oak Street Textbooks, on the other hand, is not currently offering textbook rentals. Owner Troy Gerkey said rental programs amount to little more than clever marketing strategies and donâÄôt necessarily save students money, as stores may avoid renting texts they wouldnâÄôt buy back for a decent price anyway. Gerkey said heâÄôs done additional discounting this year and that he hasnâÄôt seen a rental-hype related hit. He added sales this month are actually up over last JanuaryâÄôs.