MU's University Bookstore starts textbook rental program

Monday, February 1, 2010 | 11:01 a.m. CST; updated 4:14 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 3, 2010
MU senior Vincent Ayala, a hotel and restaurant management major, searches for a biochemistry book with the help of Louie Terbrock, a University Bookstore sales associate and junior in civil engineering, at the MU bookstore on Thursday. The bookstore currently has 65 textbooks available for rental. "I had heard about rental textbooks, but none of my books were available," Alaya said.

COLUMBIA — While a rental from Blockbuster probably won't help you finish your homework, a rental from MU's University Bookstore might.

Examples of textbooks for rent, sale

  • "Chemistry" by Raymond Chang:  New $201.70, used $151.30, rented $66
  • "Human Development: A Life-Span View" by Robert Kail and John Cavanaugh:  New $169.35, used $127.05, rented $78
  • "Multivariable Calculus: Early Transcendentals" by James Stewart:  New $160.70, used $120.55, rented $74
  • "Natural Disasters" by Patrick Abbott: New $129, used $96.75, rented $59
  • "Understanding Normal & Clinical Nutrition" by Sharon Rady Rolfes, Kathryn Pinna and Ellie Whitney: New $192.70, used $144.55, rented $66.50
  • "Psychology" by Daniel Schacter: New $135.10, used $101.35, rented $46.50
  • "Mechanics of Materials" by Ferdinand Beer, E. Russell Johnston, John DeWolf and David Mazurek: New $183.70, used $137.80, rented $84.50

source: MU Bookstore

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The bookstore started a textbook rental program this semester. Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student Auxiliary Services at MU, said the bookstore has 50 rentable books for 67 classes. Textbooks are rented at 35 to 40 percent of the new price.

Rentable titles were chosen based on consistently popular classes and highly demanded textbooks.

"We looked for classes where we'd be able to reuse the book," Froese said. “To follow the traditional rental method, you need to commit to a book for two to three years.”

Because rental programs require professors to commit to a textbook, the longevity of a textbook is important.

Sherry Pollard, University Bookstore director, said three MU professors have committed to a textbook for six semesters, including two chemistry courses and one agricultural economics course, making these textbooks rentable at a lower price. 

Although the program started this semester, textbook rentals aren't a new idea at the bookstore.

“We’ve been talking about rentals for years,” Pollard said. She said the bookstore began seriously formulating a rental program about six months ago as the rental method continued to gain publicity through chain bookstores.

These chains include Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, which recently announced it will implement a textbook rental program in 25 of its 636 affiliated college bookstores this semester. They allow students to rent online or in stores at prices 50 percent off the new price. Textbook rental Web sites such as also attract students looking to rent on the cheap. 

MU sophomore Courtney McArthur has rented from twice.

"It saves a lot of money, and they plant a tree for every book you buy," she said.

McArthur, who shops around, said she'd consider renting from the bookstore if prices compared.

"I think it depends on how much the bookstore is offering," she said.

A review of seven textbooks available for rent at University Bookstore found rental prices were generally $8-$9  lower on than the bookstore. Some books such as Chang's "Chemistry," however, cost less to rent at the bookstore.

This past fall, Follett Higher Education Group, which manages 860 collegiate bookstores, piloted a textbook rental program on seven campuses, including the University of North Texas, the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of North Florida. Elio DiStaola, public relations director for Follett, said the program saved students almost $2 million.

"Out of the 1,000 students interviewed, 97 percent gave the program a thumbs up," DiStaola said. These students also said they planned to rent textbooks again, he said.

Follett now operates rental programs on 27 campuses, including the University of Illinois. The company plans to expand and make online textbook rental available by next fall, which DiStaola sees as an important opportunity.

"We really have the ability to affect course material costs on a large scale," he said.

Although University Bookstore is joining the rental trend, Froese said it will continue to focus on used textbooks as an inexpensive alternative to new books, with 38 to 40 percent of the bookstore's textbooks available in used form.

"This is an opportunity for a hybrid system that would work very well," Froese said, referring to the combination of new, used, digital and rentable book options available. She emphasized the importance of giving students choices.

Pollard said used textbooks may still yield students more savings in cases in which multiple classes use the same textbook. She said the rental option essentially provides students with upfront savings instead of collecting buy-back money at the end of the semester when they sell a purchased book.

As of Thursday, almost 4,900 books had been rented from University Bookstore, Pollard said. Among those renters is freshman Casey Pearcy. She wasn’t planning to rent her textbooks this semester but found her Chemistry 1320 book for $66 instead of $201.70 for a new copy. She said she’ll pay closer attention to rental prices in the future.

“I would definitely look at the numbers and see how much I could save, especially if it’s for books that cost over $200,” Pearcy said. 

Three years ago, University Bookstore tried renting out one textbook, an algebra book, at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Pollard said. Froese said the Rolla campus began renting a psychology book this January. 

"That's been very successful," she said.

If book rental goes well at MU, Froese said the bookstore would ideally expand the textbook rental program at Missouri S&T and launch a stronger program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

At the end of the semester, the bookstore will evaluate the rental system based on student feedback, the number of books students end up keeping and the ease of rental textbook return. Froese said they’ll also evaluate the list of rentable titles, which may change each semester as textbook demands change. 

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loma guerra July 12, 2010 | 10:47 a.m.

I prefer not to rent, but id like to suggest it helped me save a lot of money especially with their coupons

(Report Comment)
kelsey organ July 23, 2010 | 9:37 a.m.

I love renting textbooks, over the last 2 years has saved me hundreds of dollars. I was buying from my local campus bookstore because it seemed like it would be the easiest process, but renting online is just as easy. has the cheapest prices and gets me my books incredibly fast. I highly recommend them to anyone! Here's their link: <a href=" - Rent Textbooks</a>

(Report Comment)

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