WITH the spring semester having just begun, the emerging college textbook rental market is buzzing over the sweet boost it got from retail giant Barnes & Noble. College students who are cash-strapped by the high cost of textbooks can now rent from the world's largest bookseller.
Last fall, the company started a pilot rental program at three of its nearly 640 campus bookstores and is expanding that service to 25 campuses nationwide, including Ohio State University. The effort is designed to cut textbook costs by as much as half for some titles.
Since college students spend more than $600 per year on required course material, any substantial price break is welcome. An added bonus to the Barnes & Noble program is that textbooks rented online will be shipped to a campus bookstore.
Interest in college textbook programs - which have been around for decades - has grown recently. Last year, Congress set aside $10 million to provide grants for college bookstores to start rental programs. That spurred Follett Higher Education Group, one of the biggest college bookstore operators, to start a textbook rental program. Online sites, such as Chegg and CourseSmart, began rental programs last year.
Barnes & Noble adds a prominent name and credibility to textbook rental that could put a dent in the big-money market for college textbook sales. Some textbook authors who churn out $200 tomes may complain, but probably not students looking to save money on one-semester books that cost a small fortune.