As textbook costs skyrocket, cheaper rental options surge

Tim Goral's picture

Tuition and housing aren't the only financial headaches facing this year's crop of college students — add textbooks, which nationally cost students hundreds of dollars a year on average and continue to rise in price faster than inflation.

And while generations of students have found ways to cut costs, from buying used books to shopping online, many on campuses in Wisconsin and around the country are saving big by capitalizing on a surge in rental options.

The number of college stores in the U.S. offering textbook rental has skyrocketed over the past four years. About 300 did in the fall of 2009. Now that option is found at almost all of the 3,000 college bookstore members of the National Association of College Stores.

The University Book Store in Madison, which is privately owned and operated, rents a limited number of textbook titles for large-enrollment classes, and that ends up being a large percentage of the total number of books sold, said Steve Scheibel, the store's textbook buyer.

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