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To rent or to own?

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Farzeen Foda

Senior News Editor

 

The beginning of each term brings a new rush to bookstores, with students left at the mercy of professors who insist on using new editions of textbooks, and publishers who eagerly await the opportunity to correct a few typos and sell a new edition of an old textbook at almost double the cost.

Textbookrental.ca is a relatively new company, which started as a proactive measure against high textbook prices.

The rental service, which has been mentioned by Macleans and The Globe and Mail, was established by recent university graduates, and is currently run by alumni as well as current university students. The service also boasts a quick and simplistic rental process, “saving students up to 75 per cent off the regular textbook price,” said Jack Neary, Business Development Manager for textbookrental.ca.

Exorbitant prices of textbooks over and above regular tuition fees is a painful pinch on the already stretched wallet, especially when most textbooks serve little to no purpose once a course is completed.

“I hate spending so much money on a textbook that I’ll never use again and have difficulty selling once I’m done with it. It’s the biggest waste of money I can think of,” said Ankita Dubey, a fourth year Psychology student at McMaster.

As recent graduates or current university students themselves, those at textbookrental.ca understand this sentiment and put forth every effort to make their service as student-friendly as possible.

Students can search their textbook of interest online at the company website, using the ISBN number of the textbook, and order it at a nominal shipping rate. Textbookrental.ca subsidizes shipping fees through Canada Post allowing students to have their textbooks delivered directly to them within 2-3 business days, noted Neary.

This feature is intended to save students the back-breaking labour of transporting heavy textbooks home upon purchase, he explained.

Upon rental, the cost of rental varies with the amount of time the student requests to keep the textbook. Once the rental period is has elapsed, students can return the textbook to one of many depots located in key university cities in Ontario and across Canada. Currently, depots are located throughout the GTA, Hamilton, Waterloo, Guelph, Windsor and Montreal. The company is expected to soon establish depots in Kingston, Ottawa and in the west coast, including Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. Return of textbooks can also be done free of charge through postage as the cost of mailing will be reimbursed by textbookrental.ca, explained Neary.

The Hamilton depot is located relatively close to McMaster, on King St. West, and has seen substantial business from McMaster University as well as Mohawk College students.

Students can also sell their used textbooks to textbookrental.ca with a buy-back service available year-round, where “students can receive cash on the spot,” said Neary, explaining that textbook values are monitored daily to get a fair price based on supply and demand, and for buy-backs, “we value [textbooks] higher than the bookstore,” he said.

A textbook rental service of this calibre is a relatively new concept in Canada with another service of its kind “BookMob” which operates similarly, however, in the United States, textbook rental services are more widespread and numerous, with Chegg.com as a popular service that operates in conjunction with the publishing company McGraw Hill.

A simple alternative to traditional textbook purchasing does not come without its opposition. For textbook rental services, publishers remain concerned about their financial status as a result of such programs, as many services of this sort do not give any portion of their rental revenue to the publishers of the titles rented, including textbookrental.ca.

Collen O’Neill from the Canadian Publishers Council, in an interview with Macleans, referred to these rental programs an “administrative nightmare” for publishers in the United States.

For the purposes of students, textbook rental services tend to be fairly successful, another service operating in Canada, biblio.com proved to be helpful for Stena Sothiratnam, a first year Masters in Global Health Student at McMaster who was able to find the textbooks she needed at a much lower cost than the traditional bookstore. “I’ve used biblio.com and textbooks are so much cheaper,” she said.

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