- Renting books has been happening for years in the form of buying textbooks from your local university bookstore and (hopefully) selling the books after finals. However, the textbook shuffle by publishers producing new book editions stops this rental cycle.
- Books are heavy to ship, they are already going to be at your local bookstore, based upon their years of experience of supplying enough books for the local demand.
- Waiting till the last minute and ordering your book that gets shipped via air is very environmentally unfriendly (planes burn more gas than trucks). Walking down to your local store obviously releases much less carbon than a plane or a truck.
So why are rental companies growing so rapidly? It all boils down to money. If your local bookstore is charging you $135 for your Biology book, and you can rent your book online for $75 – seems most people would rent it and save the $60 difference. However, if you purchase that book you have the right to sell it when finished. Generally, for a popular “current edition” textbook, you can get between 50-75% of the current market price via textbook buyback (if you hunt around). So, let’s take the low end, 50% of $135 is $67.50, which means that you actually spent less than if you had rented the book, and you were much friendlier to the environment.
I can already feel people jumping out of their seats and saying, “The bookstores give me pennies, or nothing at all”. In many cases, you are right because of what I call the “textbook shuffle”. The textbook shuffle is the practice of publishers constantly creating “new editions” of textbooks. Without a doubt, one advantage of renting is you don’t have to worry about the buyback value of our book. In recent years, you can find your best buyback value online with TextbooksRus, Blue Rocket Books, Powell’s, or others to find the best price for your book. However, this is not necessarily the most environmentally friendly practice either, because you are again incurring the additional shipping and packaging of the book. An interesting concept is Rent A Text, by Follett, which is utilizing existing supply and distribution channels (your local bookstores) to deliver textbook rentals.
In summary, the most environmentally friendly option would be to purchase and sell back your textbook or rent from a walkable location; however, economics often trump the environment. Next, we will discuss ways in which rental companies are addressing their environmental impact.