Students are no strangers to the rising costs of textbook prices – the average student spends over $900 per year on textbooks.
In response to the rising costs of textbook prices, the UC Davis Bookstore plans to renew its book rental program for next year.
The bookstore’s rental program started with 246 titles offered in the fall, which expanded to 350 in the winter and 450 for spring quarter. The number of titles offered next fall cannot be determined until book orders come in, said Jason Lorgan, UC Davis Bookstore book department manager.
“Our intent was to do everything we could to lower the cost of textbooks,” Lorgan said.
According to a 2008 California Bureau of State Audits report on the affordability of college textbooks, textbook prices have increased at a rate significantly higher than the typical household income. At the California Community Colleges in 2007-2008, the cost of textbooks was nearly 60 percent of a full-time student’s total education cost.
Books are eligible for the rental program if they have national wholesale value – the wholesalers who sell UC Davis the books must be able to take the rented books and then sell them quickly to another school.
“We have to be able to collect more money than it costs us,” Lorgan said. “More popular titles nationally are more likely part of the rental program.”
Since its implementation in the fall, the bookstore rental program has undergone several changes.
The bookstore now offers both new and used books for each title. In addition, any eligible title can be rented instead of only those specific books with the “Rent It” sticker.
Employees are also instructed to inform students at the register if a particular book they plan to purchase is available to rent and give them the different prices to allow students to make a more informed decision. The bookstore has also extended the due date of the rented books to the day after the last day of finals in order to accommodate students who have late finals.
Despite bookstore efforts at reducing costs, the Bureau of State Audits report claimed that professors were unaware of the effects their textbook choices had on their students.
“Professors choose the books but the people who buy them are students who have no choice,” said Jonathan Simkin, co-founder of SwoopThat.com, a website aiming to help students find cheaper used books online. “That destroys basic economic principles of supply and demand.”
Simkin and four other recent college graduates founded SwoopThat in order to increase transparency about textbook prices. Though they don’t sell any books themselves, they collect data from various different websites to allow students to find the cheapest prices collectively for all of their books. Students find their university on the website and select their classes and they are shown a list of the materials needed for all of their courses.
AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.