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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

It pays to rent textbooks

EVERY college student - and pretty much everyone who has ever been to college - knows the pain exacted by the outrageously high price of textbooks. Even used textbooks are high-priced, hard to find, and frequently made quickly obsolete by new editions.

But at last the legitimate complaints of students have been heard. Finally, Internet business entrepreneurs are offering to rent textbooks for a semester for a fraction of what it costs to buy some of them.

While renting a $166 textbook for $28 - plus shipping and handling, of course - still seems pretty expensive, it also is an authentic bargain, especially considering that students spend about $900 every year for textbooks. Far too often, they pay the full retail price and then have to accept a mere pittance for turning it back in to the bookseller.

Savvy students are logging onto textbook rental sites on the Web that make the process of getting textbooks a snap. Forget going to a bookstore, searching for what you need, standing in long checkout lines, and then lugging your volumes back to the dorm.

At chegg.com, for example, students can simply type in the international standard book number (ISBN) for their choice to quickly see if it is available. There are other rental sites, of course, and colleges also are getting in on what promises to be a lucrative business.

As we have pointed out before, academia itself is partly responsible for the huge increase in textbook costs. College and university faculty members often pad their incomes by requiring students to read the books they write. Frequent updates only add to the costs.

The rental trend undoubtedly will be welcome news to parents who are struggling to keep up with tuition increases, and many of them will have the same question: Why didn't somebody do this when we were in college?

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