BookMarq, the Marquette bookstore operated by Follett Higher Education Group, started a “Rent-All” program this semester, which allows students to rent all their books, excluding material students have to write in, such as workbooks. More than 75 percent of its titles are now available for rent.
For some students, textbooks can cost close to $1,000 per semester. BookMarq realized this financial hardship for students, and in 2010 it unveiled a new rental program. During the program’s first fall semester, BookMarq offered 33 percent of its titles for rental.
David Konkol, the manager of BookMarq, said he believes Follett’s policy is a success because books are becoming cheaper and more accessible to students.
“Renting is all about the student,” Konkol said. “In fact, in many cases we’ll be renting a book for less than our cost to put it on the shelf.”
Over the last decade, textbook prices rose 82 percent and continue to rise 6 percent per year. According to the Government Accountability Office, the publishing industry releases new editions of books with small changes and undermine the market price on used textbooks, because they bundle the new edition with workbooks or online pass codes. To gain access to the online material, professors often require students to buy the newest edition of the textbook.
Marquette is one of more than 400 schools who participate in Follett’s textbook rental program. Elio DiStaola, Follett’s Marquette campus representative, said their research shows almost 50 percent of students rent textbooks.
“Rental continues to be the most popular option in our stores with this program,” DiStaola said. “We’re opening the door to even more savings opportunities.”
Compared to students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who pay an average of $1,200 on books per semester, Marquette students receive more help on textbook costs through renting. In 2007, a UW-Madison task force determined that a textbook rental program operated by the university would not be feasible.
Other schools in the UW system employ a flat-rate system. For example, UW-Whitewater charges each student a flat rate of $153.12 per student to rent all books for the semester.
Despite the BookMarq rental program, some students find the savings have a minor impact on the overall cost of textbooks. Joelle Pieterzak, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said many science majors in particular still pay high prices.
“Science books are always being updated, so you always have to rent the newest edition,” Pieterzak said. “Renting new books is still super expensive.”
Follett has limited negotiating power in textbook prices because it is the publishers who set prices for their textbooks. While book prices continue to rise, Follett and BookMarq will continue to offer more rental titles to lessen the cost to students over the next few years.
“We’re blowing out the assortment for our students,” Konkol said. “If we can make a book rentable, it’s rentable.”