The Dark Side of Textbook Rental

For many college students, renting textbooks is a more economical approach than buying the book at a much higher price. Rental is for a semester and, much like a library, requires the student to take good care of the textbook and to return it on time to avoid any additional charges. However, for some college students who utilized the campus bookstore operator Neebo (now owned by Follett), formerly a division of the Nebraska Book Company, renting textbooks has become just as expensive, if not more, than buying them.

A student from DePaul University rented a book from Neebo last year and recalls returning it weeks before its due date. Five months later, he received an email from a law firm attempting to collect $150.79 on behalf of Neebo. The student attempted to solve the misunderstanding by reaching out to Neebo directly but was told he had to provide the tracking number proving he returned the book to avoid paying the fee. A tracking number he received five months earlier. Of course, not every campus bookstore has the same issues as Neebo; however, many offer a similar textbook rental option. Undoubtedly, students who utilize this service are doing so to save money. A look at the fine print may convince students otherwise as this decision could result in them paying more than the price of the book and potential damage to their credit. The College Investor advises college students to "read the fine print" when considering textbook rental.

"Once you’ve identified the book you’re looking to rent, as well as the various retailers that offer it, you may want to take a look at their respective shipping fees. On top of that, check if there’s a late fee should you forget to send back the textbook within the agreed time, and damage and loss fees, if any."

These fees, when added to the overall rental cost, comprise the realistic cost to rent the book and may (or may not) be a bargain.

For many, obtaining a textbook for a college course seems absurdly difficult. The cost of the book at the campus bookstore is too high and even rental seems high when all the fees are included in the final cost. In addition, the average e-textbook rents is 25 percent more expensive than the average rental. What’s a college student to do?

College students are in need of a cost-effective alternative to textbooks that is more than digitally formatted text. They need an option that offers something beyond words that is intellectually stimulating, engaging and different.

Skyepack is a simple solution for faculty and universities looking to break away from the textbook ecosystem. We work with instructors, departments and universities to create a sustainable, low-cost course materials solution. By utilizing OER, content generated by professors, licensed copyrighted content, or a mixture of everything, Skyepack delivers affordable and custom designed course material through a single platform available on devices students already own.

To learn more about how Skyepack is changing the textbook marketplace, check out the Textbook Liberation Fund.

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About the author

Brady Kalb Jun 21st, 2016

Brady Kalb is the CEO of Skyepack. Brady’s passion for education stems from his desire to "always be learning" and find innovative solutions to difficult problems, and experiences teaching various business and entrepreneurship classes at universities.