Textbook buying options now include e-textbooks, rentals

Aubree Eliza Weaver, News & Features Editor

With so many options available, students are finding new ways of cutting spending when it comes to textbooks. In the past, campus bookstores would give students the option to purchase a book either new or used, and then, perhaps, the bookstore would be able to buy it back from them at the end of the semester. Now, however, leading online textbook retailers such as eCampus offer up to five purchasing options, and their changes are paying off.

“College students and their parents have long known that buying the organic chemistry textbook is much cheaper online than at the campus bookstore. Now, students are finding that ‘renting’ textbooks makes more sense economically,” explained Jessica Zaloom, a public relations representative of eCampus.

Textbook sales make up an $11 billion industry, with online sales now representing approximately 25 percent of the business.

“Savings typically range from 10 to 50 percent, depending on whether the books are purchased new, used, or rented,” said Matt Montgomery, eCampus CEO.

“We offer multiple purchase/rental options: new, used, rental, download, and sell-it-back.”

According to Montgomery, “E-textbooks can be a reasonable substitute to a traditional textbook. The pricing is traditionally 30 to 50 percent below that of a new textbook, but is usually still more expensive than rentals, and may not be as easy to access as a physical book. It depends on the student’s tech ability, location, and ease of powering up.”

With the expectations of colleges and professors regarding the number of textbooks students are told to purchase, Zaloom explained, “a very common reason for dropping a class, though students may hate to admit it, is due to the cost of textbooks at the campus bookstore.”

As noted in recent studies by the eCampus organization, there is a common trend among college students of dropping classes within the first two weeks of school, often in compliance with college and university policies concerning tuition refunds.

“We see a very strong market for the sales and rentals of physical textbooks. Our most popular textbook option remains the purchase of used textbooks, because students find them to be an excellent value and of high quality,” Montgomery said. “Rentals of physical textbooks are the most significant growth trend, although there is still a strong appetite for purchasing textbooks, especially used.”

For those who are concerned about their eligibility to return rental books due to their study habits, many textbook companies like eCampus allow for “reasonable” highlighting and note-taking.

As kids and parents continue to seek ways to cut their spending on textbooks, organizations are bound to increase the number of options offered for the resources students need each semester.

Zaloom further offered some interesting facts related to eCampus and textbook options:
1. Renting textbooks is more cost-effective for students.
2. Rental return alleviates the hassle of getting stuck with a textbook that has a new edition.
3.   Renting textbooks is essentially recycling the text, which has a positive environmental effect.
4. Renting textbooks from eCampus.com can be done from the comfort of your home.
5. Length of rental is flexible and you can extend, or even purchase the book if you decide to.