Book rentals, e-books help lighten financial load for students

Daily Illini
August 19, 2010
By: Shawn Adderly

In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. It had three provisions aimed at driving down textbook costs. U.S Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was the original sponsor of the provisions that went into effect on July 1 of this year.

On a conference call to reports on July 21, Durbin said that it is “very clear to me that textbook costs have gotten out of control,” which is why he sponsored the provisions. The provisions require textbook polishers to disclose textbook prices to professors that evaluating publisher-provided copies. It also requires that textbook supplemental material such as software of workbooks be unbundled from the textbook, and that colleges are required to include the prices of textbooks and their ISBNs on the course listing website.

Ed Slazinik, director of the Illini Union, said the University has complied with the act by providing a link from the course listing website to the Illini Union Bookstore website.

However, the act has also spurred bookstores to find new ways to reduce costs. In the spring of 2009, the Illini Union Bookstore started a textbook rental program, which allows students to rent textbooks instead of purchasing them.

“After the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act, we had to find different ways to reduce textbook costs,” said Bradley Bridges, associate director for retail operations for the Illini Union Bookstore.

Bridges said that textbook rentals have grown by almost 400% since the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2010.

The other two major bookstores, Folletts and T.I.S., also began offering textbook rentals in the spring of 2010. One of the problems the rental program has run into is textbooks that come with online content and a passcode, which cannot be re-rented next semester, said Brian Paragi, store manager at T.I.S.

Offerings of rental books at T.I.S., Illini Union Bookstore and Folletts have increased.

“We have tripled the number of titles that are available for rental since the program started,” Paragi said.

Students that rent books must sign a rental agreement that stipulates when the book must be returned and in what condition.

The fact that the credit card holder must sign a rental agreement could be a potential problem for students.

The bookstore uses their credit card as collateral if the book is damaged.

Students can write or highlight text, but if excessive damage is incurred, there could be an additional fee that totals to the full cost of the textbook, said managers from all three stores.

Another option also being offered to students looking for lower textbook prices is e-books, a fully online text.

Students can purchase access from the bookstores, which gives them access to the URL and password.

“Typically, you get access to the book for a set period of time typically from six months to a year,” Paragi said.