E-textbooks offer cheaper solution to high textbook prices

Terese Torgersen

With the new semester underway, students are looking for ways to cut the cost of books and one way is to rent books.

There are several places students can rent from, including the Matador Bookstore, Amazon and through a new program by the CSU, among others.

On Aug. 6, Amazon.com launched a textbook rental program where students can save up to 70 percent in addition to being able to buy and sell new and used textbooks.

By using the multinational commerce company Amazon, students can choose from thousands of textbooks for rent.

After doing independent research to search for six different textbooks required for the CSUN fall semester in anthropology, creative writing and mathematics, two of the textbooks were available for rental at Amazon while all of them were available for rent through the Matador Bookstore.

The textbooks “American Ethnicity” and “Fiction 100” went for $39.75 and $48.45 on Amazon, while in the Matador Bookstore for $48.45 and $49.08.

“College is expensive, and students are always looking for ways to save money on textbooks, which is why we’ve long offered great prices on both new and used textbooks,” said Ripley MacDonald, director of textbooks at Amazon.com, in a press release.

Amazon is one of the many companies that offer students a more affordable option than plain old purchasing. Students no longer have to leave their apartment to obtain course requirements. By the press of a button, the textbooks will appear on their doorstep.

Few students have heard about Amazon’s rental program and those who have still prefer the Matador Bookstore because of their easy access to book rentals.

“I’ve heard about Amazon’s rental program but never thought about using it because I buy books on Amazon and I have seen the prices on their rental books,” said Yadira Torres, a junior majoring in sociology major. “The Matador Bookstore is more reliable, they are right here and some of the books have the same prices as Amazon. I prefer buying my textbooks.”

Torres is not alone. Nathan Garcia, a senior accounting major, also prefers using the Matador Bookstore.

“It is easier to go to the Matador Bookstore, buy it and keep it for a later time,” said Garcia.

Cassandra Orosco, junior sociology major, said that she might be more interested in Amazon’s rental program.

“(Renting is) easier than buying the book and then having to sell it after the semester ends,” said Orosco.

There are few major differences between Amazon and the Matador Bookstore. The latter lists the textbook’s condition, which gives students a chance to decide if they want a new or used rental book.

It seems the Matador Bookstore has the most titles for rent, while some of Amazon’s rental books are more affordable than the bookstore.

“Competition is healthy for the customers and keeps us extra-sharp in the goods and services we provide,” said Amy Berger, Matador Bookstore store manager. “We’re an on-campus resource that knows CSUN, students and faculty.”

Berger was not surprised to find that Amazon had launched a rental program, but she believes one of the Matador Bookstore’s advantages is their location directly on campus and within close proximity of students and faculty.

“When students utilize the Matador Bookstore Rent-A-Text program, we can assure students that they will get the right book,” said Berger. “If an instructor change, or decide to use a different book, we offer returns and make sure they get the right one.”

Another rental program that launched this fall is the CSU’s digital rental service. The CSU recently signed an agreement with Cengage Learning, CourseSmart, Follett and Barnes & Noble, giving students access to thousands of e-textbooks at discounted prices.

The program was an initiative under the Affordable Learning Solutions Campaign offering students the option to rent digital versions of textbooks saving at least 60 percent compared to purchasing the printed textbook.

“(The) CSU created the Affordable Learning Solutions campaign to give faculty the choice to select and students the choice to rent course materials digitally, which is more affordable for students,” said Stephanie Thara, representative for the CSU.

In addition to renting textbooks, CSU provides information on course materials, e-textbooks and library materials that are free to students.

The digital material will be available to students for the whole semester through laptops, desktops, tablets and other devices. The textbooks can be accessed online or offline, and includes interactive capabilities such as printing, note-taking and highlighting.

“Affordable Learning Solutions provides a website that is a one-stop-shop where faculty, staff, and students can find low cost course content that can substitute for more costly textbooks,” said Thara. “By reducing these expenses, we believe that we can provide more affordable access to a quality CSU learning experience.”