Booked solid: Rental business doing well



By Brian Shlonsky

In the constant struggle to keep student expenses to a minimum, new and up-to-the-minute cost cutting trends come and go with each semester.  Popular this fall: textbook rental.

At the start of the Fall 2009 semester, the UK Bookstore was the only one of the four major bookstores around campus to offer textbook rental as an option.

Now they all do.

“Our store was one of 27 campus bookstores chosen to pilot the Rent-A-Text program last fall,” said Sally Wiatrowski, the director of retail operations at UK Bookstore.  “At the 27 schools, students saved over $6 million and all the feedback was so positive that Follett decided to launch a national campaign, where 738 of Follett’s more than 850 campuses are now enrolled in the Rent-A-Text program.”

The UK Bookstore currently has over 800 textbook titles available for rent, which is a third of their overall title base.

Wildcat Textbooks, Kennedy Bookstore and have all implemented a similar rental program for the Fall 2010 semester.

“We had a lot of interest from customers, and renting has gained consumer interest nationally, so we try to stay on top of what the industry is doing and provide as many options for students as we can,” said David Wade, general manager of Wildcat Textbooks.

Wildcat has around 100 titles available to rent in their first semester with a rental program. Although they have received high consumer interest, the store has yet to rent many books.

“It’s hard to find books that are a good rental for both the customer and the bookstore,” Wade said.  “We are unable to rent textbooks with software containing access codes because each user needs a new code, and books used for more than one semester would not be economical for the students since they would have to pay to rent a book twice that they could have just bought.”

Kennedy Bookstore looked at a contract for renting books at the beginning of Fall 2009, but felt it would not benefit students. Despite initial reluctance, the store has begun a textbook rental program for this semester.

“One reason we decided to rent this semester was because we saw with many new editions of textbooks coming out that it could be cheaper for students to rent, depending on the situation,” general manager Carol Behr said.  “Ninety percent of the books we’re renting are new editions where no used books were available, but purchasing used books and then selling them back at the end of the semester is still the best bet for students.”

Kennedy’s is currently renting 153 titles, and of the students who rented books, most rented one or two and bought the rest, Behr said.

Several students have rented from since they started offering a rental program in February.

“The number of students who rent from us has absolutely gone up by hundreds of percents this year since we started renting,” said Chad Saunders, the store manager for the South Upper location.  “The number of titles we offer to rent is always going up.”

“Textbook renting is a nice way to collaborate with the campus to reduce the cost of education,” Wiatrowski said.