College students have options to save on books

Aug 8, 2012

Study points to rental and e-book offerings and more

A new study says the increasing availability of e-book and rental programs is allowing college students to spend less on textbooks.

The study by OnCampus Research, a division of the National Association of College Stores, says students report spending an estimated $655 annually on required course materials, down from $667 two years ago and $702 four years ago.

That downward trend is also shown in another study released last year, Student Monitor’s Lifestyle & Media Report, which found student spending on textbooks had dropped 10 percent compared to 2009-10 and was down 20 percent from 2008-09.

In addition to textbook publishers, online booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon are offering rental and e-book options for a growing number of textbooks and materials.  

In DeKalb, both NIU’s University Bookstore and the Village Commons Bookstore offer a rental option for a number, though not all, textbooks. The University Bookstore also sells access codes for e-books where that option is available. Purchasers can then go to the publisher’s website and use the code to gain access to the title they wish to download.  

The Rockford Register-Star reports similar options available at the Rock Valley College and Rockford College bookstores.

What has happened, RVC Director of Business Services Jacki Minnihan told the paper, is that Congress has made several consumer-friendly legislative changes in recent years that have flattened the textbook marketplace. It’s possible to buy many or even all the books necessary without trekking to the campus bookstore.

Other options include special orders of specific chapters from textbooks when instructors will not be using the entire book, encouraging all instructors to use the same textbooks for the same course, and making older editions of the textbooks available when they contain the same material.