Online book-rental business evolves from college experiment to full-time venture

Textbook rental companies are flourishing as college students seek alternatives.

Some may call it “Netflix for textbooks,” but what David Comisford really wants to call his new venture is “successful.”

Frewg — pronounced , not coincidentally, like the first syllable of frugal  — was quietly launched online, evolving from an enterprise that Newark native Comisford developed as a scrappy Capital University undergrad.

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Open textbooks gain momentum

Textbook prices increased at four times the rate of inflation from 1999 to 2009.

Officials from open-license textbook publisher Flat World Knowledge say more than 1,300 instructors at 800 colleges and universities are using their books this fall semester— doubling the 400 institutions that used Flat World texts a year ago.

New York-based Flat World Knowledge also announced a partnership with Virginia State University that could prove to be a model for how institutions can provide affordable textbooks for students who often decide not to buy expensive books that can add as much as $1,000 to an annual college bill, according to national estimates.

The proliferation of Flat World’s low-cost online books owes in large part to word of mouth in the halls of academia, said Eric Frank, the company’s founder and president.…Read More

Lawmaker to push for open online textbooks

College students pay more than $900 annually for textbooks.
College students pay more than $900 annually for textbooks.

Every semester, a few students in Steven White’s business and marketing courses ask to borrow the professor’s copy of the course textbook. They can’t afford one for themselves, White said, and their sub-par exam scores show it.

That’s why White, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professor since 1998, supports a federal law that aims to lower skyrocketing college textbook costs by making students privy to a class’s book prices before they register for the course, requires publishers to disclose book prices to professors, and rids textbooks of “bundles” like CDs and access to web sites that raise prices.

The law, known as the College Textbook Affordability Act, was included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act passed by Congress in 2008. The textbook provisions—championed by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.—kicked in July 1.…Read More

Online textbooks let students share notes across the globe

One-third of students surveyed said they were "comfortable" with eBooks.
One-third of students surveyed said they were "comfortable" with eBooks.

Florida State College at Jacksonville faculty have created 20 electronic textbooks that are accessible on a free online platform that lets students take notes in the margins, search for key terms, and share notes with peers and professors through an interactive social-networking feature.

Students don’t need to buy any additional hardware to use the college’s eBook program, officials said. Instead, they simply download an eReader application called CafeScribe, which also brings students together through social networking to form online study groups.

And students who use the CafeScribe eBooks aren’t limited to contact with their professors and fellow students. Any student from any campus in the world can share content and study notes with any other student if they’re using the same web-based textbook, according to an April 21 announcement from Follett Higher Education Group, the Illinois-based used book supplier that makes CafeScribe.…Read More

Online books let college students earn credit—and cash

Traditional textbooks can cost more than $500 per semester, according to national surveys.
Traditional textbooks can cost more than $900 per year, according to national surveys.

Nineteen business majors are trying to sell the idea of free online textbooks to their professors in an internship program that pushes open-content technology designed to counter escalating book costs.

The internships, introduced this year by open textbook provider Flat World Knowledge, let sophomore and junior business students earn college credit and up to $1,800 if their sales pitch convinces a professor to use web-based texts that can be reorganized and modified by chapter, sentence, or word.

Students from schools that include New York University, the University of Florida, and the College of Charleston are being tutored via webinars by Flat World Knowledge sales pros and authors of textbooks that are sold on the Flat World web site.…Read More

Barnes & Noble unveils textbook rental service for colleges

Barnes & Noble's textbook rental service could create a larger audience for the industry.
Barnes & Noble's textbook rental service could create a larger audience for this growing market.

Bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. is launching a textbook rental program for college students, making it the newest entrant in a growing field, and officials at book rental services say the announcement will raise college students’ awareness of the burgeoning market.

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.…Read More