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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Textbook Renting... The next trend?

There is a growing buzz on college campuses and in the academic book market surrounding the idea of textbook rental. The basic concept allows students to rent their books for the semester for a nominal fee (around $75), expand their minds, and return them at the end of the term. The idea sounds like a logical plan to cut the cost of higher education for students. Success of these programs on a widescale level would certainly dampen online book sales significantly. In addition, there is a significantly larger problem. If educators and universities endorse this program, they are buying into the continued commodification of higher education in the US. A book represents, more than, a means to get the grade, pass the class, and earn the credits. It should be part of a larger, lifelong, enlightenment that a student can refer back to for other classes or even later in life (ideally). Obviously, there are some students who never even consider BUYING texts a possibility (because of economics), but alternative programs should be created to help give these students the benefit of taking Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and marking it up with notes, interjecting thoughts in the margin, wearing the spine down, and the like.

I find it hard to believe that these programs will catch on.... Not because of the reasons I listed (unfortunately), but because it is so far from the ideal for everyone involved (students, educators, booksellers, publishers).