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Rental Textbook Usage on the Rise as New/Used Pricing Flutters

stack of open textbooks

Alongside a report from the National Association of College Stores on declining costs for course material, another source for tracking down college textbooks has released its own data, suggesting that textbook pricing isn't necessarily on the slide., a price comparison website that steers potential buyers to some 8 million college textbooks, found that the average cost of a new college textbook rose by 2 percent between January 2018 and January 2019 and by 14 percent between August 2016 and January 2019. Used textbooks also increased in price — by 6 percent between January 2018 and January 2019 and by 13 percent between August 2016 and January 2019.

The data was based on 558,000 student textbook selections at from August 2016 (the fall semester) to January 2019 (the spring semester). During that time, nearly 750,000 students visited the site to research and compare prices about textbook options.

Only rental texts and e-book pricing declined over the long haul, by 9 percent and 44 percent, respectively, between August 2016 and January 2019.

Over that same period, the use of rental books increased, from about 19 percent of total sales to 33 percent, while transactions involving new and used book dropped. The company suggested that this was due to "more availability and less expensive options compared to new and used books."

E-book sales have increased dramatically as more offerings have become available through the years, and pricing has dropped significantly, yet they still only account for 5 percent of sales. estimated that the rental market will account for more than third of sales for this year's fall semester. Rentals are the lowest cost option and often the fastest alternative, the company said. What rentals lack, of course, is an option for students to sell back copies for extra cash. The website provides a "buy versus rent" tool, to help students make their decisions.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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