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Textbook rental program deemed success

Sept. 28, 2010

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

More than 9,000 textbooks have been rented from the Baylor Bookstore so far this semester, after the introduction of the Rent-A-Text program, according to David Yee, the store's textbook manager.

Still, some students aren't aware that the program has come to Baylor, Yee said.

"[It was a] very successful first time around," Yee said. "Our company did a lot of advertising, but there's still some students asking the question, 'Can I rent a book?' They didn't realize they could rent them."

Billy Nors, store director of the Baylor Bookstore, said renting was an attractive option even for students that hadn't previously bought their books through Baylor.

"Just from standing in the lines, talking to the students that were in line, on average it seemed like almost every student that was in here, if there was a rental option, they were renting something," Nors said. "And then we had students in here that have probably never really shopped the bookstore -- that was a big upswing. Word got out that we had this rental option and they wanted to come see what it was about."

Humble junior Ayla Francis rented three of her books from Baylor this semester and rented others online.

"I decided to rent textbooks just because it's cheaper and a lot of times you buy books from Baylor and they won't give you a good amount of money back, even if the book isn't in bad shape," Francis said. "And I'm not going to keep the books anyway, so I might as well rent them."

Although having the program on campus didn't affect her substantially because she also rented from other companies, Francis said it was convenient to have the program here so that she could pick up last-minute books without waiting to have them shipped. She also said she felt more confident that the campus store would have the books she needed when rental websites might have run out. The lower price was also a plus, Francis said.

"I don't think that it made that much of a difference [for me] because I was renting them elsewhere," Francis said, "but it's a nice alternative considering the books are so expensive in the first place."

Currently there are about 730 national titles that can be rented through Baylor, along with a few local titles, Nors said.

Because the rented books typically have to be used for four terms before their original cost is met, Nors said the program required a large investment from the bookstore.

"Rental is a risky model and it does require the use and reuse of the title to ensure everyone remains whole," Nors said. "It is a huge upfront investment in inventory for us, but we hope more students will turn to the campus store for their course material solutions. That is our objective, so our hope is that students will seek us and notice that we are trying to help in that investment for their future as far as course materials go."

As reported by The Lariat in April, some members of Faculty Senate were concerned about the introduction of the program on campus because they were not consulted although textbooks are a faculty issue.

Dr. Raymond Cannon, Faculty Senate chair, said he could not yet comment on the program.

"The faculty are concerned about everything that affects students, so we wanted just to know how things are working," Cannon said. "Let's see how it works. I can't comment about how it's working until we see how it's working."

The senate wants to make sure that the textbooks students need are available in "sufficient quantity" at the bookstore, and is also concerned about textbooks costs, Cannon said.

"What the senate is concerned about is what we can do to lower the costs to the student," Cannon said. "Quite frankly, I think it's only recently that faculty have been aware of how really, really expensive textbooks are. Textbooks have just taken off. That's real inflation."

Nors said renting textbooks can save students about 50 percent of what they would pay for a new book, and that whether a rented book is new or used, the rental price remains the same.

"Course materials are not cheap. They're getting more and more expensive, more and more stuff is being added to them, and if there's any way that we can help a student excel in their class by having their course materials, I think rental is a really strong option for students," Nors said. "We had some students that I was helping in the store -- a couple of them said without the rental option, I probably would not have been able to purchase a book for the class, and a lot of them stated that this is going to help them to achieve better things in the class than before where they wouldn't have."

Books rented this semester must be returned by Dec. 17 or students will be charged a processing fee and the full price of the book.