Bookstores offer rentals, savings are marginal

Editorial by Kernel staff.

With the recent upward trend of textbook rentals, bookstores may be left searching for a solution on how to achieve comparable profits to the buy-only business they once knew.

Students, on the other hand, have less to worry about. Rental prices slashed dollars off textbook prices.

Additionally, the end-of-semester burden of selling textbooks back to the store for a mere fraction of the original price is no longer an unavoidable reality. With rentals, returning books is as simple as paying a fee for your books and sending them back five months later. Renting books is an elementary concept and is surprising it was not demanded sooner.

That being said, the new option for renting books still isn’t drastic enough. Even the rental prices are not “cheap,” by student’s standards. Semester rental prices at UK Bookstore, Kennedy Bookstore and similar stores are comparable to the purchase prices at the cheapest online retailers.

Purchasing textbooks online trumps local options, yet again. For renting a book only five months, the price should be significantly lower than the retail price.

Students can simply ill-afford to purchase textbooks each semester, especially when new editions are released seemingly annually. This often leaves desperate buyers out of luck when browsing the web for the cheapest books.

According to an Aug. 26 Kernel article, Sally Wiatrowski, the director of retail operations at UK Bookstore, claims students saved more than $6 million at the 27 book rental pilot stores. The numbers could be monumental on a larger national scale, because textbooks have historically been the largest hidden fees of attending college.

But bookstores may not be losing as much money as they expect by lending out textbooks one semester at a time.

As the idea takes shape and becomes the traditional way to acquire books, stores will bring in more money. Less buyers will be forced to rifle through website upon website and instead turn to their nearest book rental program, thus stimulating the income of those stores.

Students looking for uncommon or niche textbooks are still left hopeless, considering the UK Bookstore rents only one-third of its entire book collection, most other stores even less.

Once stores offer their entire stock for rent, equilibrium will be reached.

In the same Aug. 26 Kernel article, local business spokesmen say the rental business is doing very well and acknowledge the benefits it brings to students. It does appear bookstores appreciate the relief they bring students with textbook rentals, but it is uncertain whether sellers will be able to provide all books in that fashion.

Hopefully, as the rental trend becomes the norm, lower prices will too.