Are textbooks a ‘scam’? Students think so

The survey also contains a tidbit that won’t come as welcome news for parents: Nearly seven in 10 college students believed they would be “somewhat financially dependent on their parents after graduation,” and 20 percent said they would have to move back home with mom and dad after school.

A quick look through BookRenter’s online library shows that some textbooks are marked down more than 70 percent from list price. A Microeconomics textbook is available to rent for $37.70, about one-third of the list price.

A book on criminal investigations can be rented for $50.09 through BookRenter, according to the web site. The full price of that book is $162.95.And a book titled Living with Art is marked down from $131 to $54 on the BookRenter site.

Start-up companies aren’t the only players in the growing book rental marketplace–the web-based service has also drawn interest from one of the largest book retailers in the world. Barnes & Noble announced in January that it would allow college students to rent their textbooks from the company’s web site.

The new program, available though campus bookstores or the stores’ web sites, began as a pilot program in three campus bookstores in the fall. It has now been expanded to 25 bookstores.

Some college bookstores that will offer the program include Ohio State University, the University of Maryland, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and the University of South Carolina.

Barnes & Noble said books will rent for 42.5 percent of their original price, so a $100 book would cost $42.50 to rent for the entire term. Textbooks can be rented at book stores or online–with online orders shipped to a campus bookstore.

The effort is operated through the New York company’s subsidiary, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers LLC. Barnes & Noble bought the Barnes & Noble College Booksellers unit back from its chairman last year in a deal worth $596 million.

The climbing cost of textbooks has drawn the ire of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who proposed and helped pass legislation aimed at trimming students’ annual textbook bill.

The new federal law’s provision requiring colleges and universities to provide lists of assigned textbooks for each course–including prices and ISBNs–will give students time to shop around the internet and local book stores for the best deal, instead of having to order the book within a week or two of the start of each semester.