Following the lead of other universities — and responding to frequent requests from students — the Brown Bookstore has implemented a new textbook rental service this semester.
Select new textbooks are available to rent at prices marked down from their posted sale prices in the store, Steven Souza, director of bookstore administration, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. He explained that under the new system, students renting textbooks pay the rental price in full upon checkout and must return any rented books to the store by the last day of finals at the end of the semester.
All of the textbooks available for rental are new books, though their rental prices are marked below both new and used prices. Bookstore administrators decided which books would be rentable based on markdown possibility, edition and "the likelihood that a student would not retain the book" at semester's end, Souza wrote. The popularity of textbook rentals at other institutions and businesses helped spur the program's birth, he added.
Students who wish to rent textbooks must sign a rental agreement that stipulates the service's rules. The book must be returned in its original or saleable condition, though a limited amount of highlighting and notes are allowed, according to the agreement's provisions. The store has "been advising students to please return the book in a condition that they would buy it in," Souza wrote.
Students will incur a late charge of $5 per day if a textbook is not returned to the store by the time it closes on the last day of finals, with a maximum charge of $25. If the book is not returned within five days of the last day of finals, the bookstore will charge the student's account the difference between the rental price and the sale price of a new copy, plus an additional 10 percent handling fee.
So far, the service is proving more popular than the bookstore had anticipated, Souza wrote. Rentable textbooks are leaving the shelves quickly, and students have asked about expanding the list of rentable texts, Souza added.
In the past, students have used the library as a temporary, but free, source of course materials. Jose Rodriguez '12 said instead of renting textbooks he has checked them out at the library or bought them from students who have already taken the course.
"We have a borrow system internal to our friends," he said.
Melissa Bowe '11 has also bought books from friends for a lower price and borrowed from the library. She said the rental service will be useful.
Another rental service on campus, Sheep Textbooks, is working to capitalize on steep book prices. Jaap Ruoff '13, who started the business venture three semesters ago, said the high cost of books surprised him when he first came to Brown. Ruoff said he wanted to make textbook renting more popular on campus if it would save students money.
Because Ruoff's stock is limited in part to what he can buy from students, the stocks of the two rental services do not overlap much at the present time. But that could change if both ventures expand in the future, Ruoff said. He added that he tries to go below the bookstore's prices when overlap between rentable books does occur.
Though the bookstore's new service might take transactions away from Sheep Textbooks, which rented around fifty books last semester, Ruoff said he was pleased to see that students now have more options for obtaining cheaper textbooks.
"We're only happy that the Brown Bookstore is responding to that," he said.