In an effort to save students money and increase access to course materials, the Matador Bookstore has doubled the availability of rental books from last year and introduced 200 digital titles for the coming semester, said Amy Berger, store director for the Matador Bookstore.
“In the fall term, we rented over 15,000 books to more than 9,200 students, saving them more than $500,000,” Berger said. “And, although they represent a small fraction of sales, we are working toward a digital world.”
The expense of textbooks has become a common talking point on campus, particularly over the past decade.
Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations for Follett Higher Education Group, said this growing sensitivity to price has run parallel to economic concerns.
“Across the industry, there has been a tremendous focus on affordability,” he said.
In their 2010 Student Watch Research, the National Association of College Stores reported that students spent an average of $667 on required course materials during the past 12 months.
Junior Guadalupe Becerra, 20, a sociology major, said she has spent $500 for four classes worth of materials.
“I buy my texts so I look for used (books) if they’re available,” she said. “I want to keep them after the semester ends, and I find myself going back through old texts for reference.”
Through the Rent-A-Text program, students can save 50 percent or more by borrowing books for the duration of the semester as opposed to saving 25 percent on used books.
These lower prices have impacted sales but DiStaola said the industry is willing to take the risk.
“By taking this risk, we ensure that more students have access to materials by making them more affordable,” he said.
Taking into consideration customer service and their business model, DiStaola said students will be able to buy additional materials because of the money they save by renting books, creating a beneficial relationship for both parties.
“Ultimately, the rental program hinges on many parties working together,” he said. “It is the group effort of the school, bookstore, faculty and students that will make it successful. Each of those parties play an active role in assuring that it happens, like students returning rental books by deadline so they can be rented again.”
Berger said textbook sales have declined over the past five years, partially due to the rental option.
“Many students point to affordability and the growing number of textbook sources as lending to this downward trend” she said.
Freshman Duvall Mariano, 18, said he chooses to buy his textbooks online or rent books when they are available.
“I usually use Amazon because they have cheaper prices and great availability,” said Mariano, a business and marketing major.
Mariano said buying textbooks online allowed him to spend just $150 on books last semester, far below the national average. He anticipates this semester to be more financially demanding.
“Some of my major books are over $100 each,” he said. “I would only spend that much if it was my last resort, after I tried renting and buying online.”
While most of the demand still is for traditional bound books, campus stores are seeing an increase in eBooks and anticipate a spike in demand for digital books over the next few years.
Berger said the Matador Bookstore is increasing their digital titles to provide “value, choice and quality” in a more convenient format.
Websites have emerged, such as www.cafescribe.com, hosted by Follett, which allow students to annotate digital texts and communicate with students and instructors.
“Our mission is to ensure each and every student has access to the materials necessary for success in the classroom,” DiStaola said. “We do so by building a bookstore of choices.”