Rent or buy?

This term, the Portland State Bookstore implemented a rental program as an alternative to purchasing new or used textbooks.

This term, the Portland State Bookstore implemented a rental program as an alternative to purchasing new or used textbooks. The program is expected to offset rising textbook costs, according to Kenneth Brown, president and chief executive officer of the bookstore.

“[The bookstore] is constantly searching for ways to address cost issues because we’re not seeing textbook prices come down from publishers,” Brown said.

Though the program has been in the works for nearly a year, the bookstore’s first day of renting out books was on Dec. 17.

“We had hoped to have it up and coming fall term, but we had some technical issues that caused some problems,” Brown said, citing a flood that caused severe damage to the basement level of the bookstore last February. 

According to Brown, the rental process is simple. Once students are ready to check out at the register, the cashier can determine which textbooks are available for rent. If a student wishes to rent, they will then need to provide an e-mail address, phone number and credit or debit card information. Textbook rentals are then due at the end of the term. If the book is not returned, the student will be charged a $10 penalty fee and the difference between the rental price and the book’s retail price. 

In addition, if a course is dropped and the rented textbook must be returned, students can do so by Jan. 14.

Brown said that the PSU Bookstore would not accept textbooks that have extensive damage, such as those that have water stains or pages missing.

“We’re being fairly reasonable, but there are situations where we wouldn’t take it,” he said. “We don’t expect it back in brand new condition; we expect it to be a used book by [the end of the term].”

Prices for book rentals vary, depending on the condition of the textbook and its availability. For textbooks that will most likely be bought back by the bookstore, Brown recommends that students opt out of the rental program. Additionally, for multi-term courses, the rental program can be an inconvenient choice, as students would have to re-rent their textbooks at the end of each term, according to Brown.

“We’re not renting books that are at retail for under $35,” Brown said. “With lower cost books there’s a lot of handling and a lot of costs associated with that…for the first round this term we kind of went in a little more conservatively.” 

However, the bookstore plans to expand the program in the future.

“It’s going much more smoothly and better than I expected,” said Brian Capovilla, a PSU graduate who works as a cashier at the bookstore. He described the complications that the new system adds to the checkout process, especially as employees learn to register rental books; however, the program was popular with students.

Ian Holten, a PSU junior, visited the bookstore yesterday and saw advertisements there for the rental program. He decided to rent his economics textbook.

“Anything to make it cheaper,” he said.

By the middle of yesterday, bookstore employees reported that the stickers made for the rentals had run out and that replacements of 200 and 400 were ordered.

Aside from the textbook rental program, the PSU Bookstore has been searching for ways to make textbooks affordable. In October, it entered into a Hewlett Packard pilot program, called Odin Ink, that allowed textbooks to be printed on-demand. The machine provides a quick and relatively cheap way to produce books. ?