Bundles on Books

Aug 212007
Authors: Nikki Cristello

Students who bought their fall textbooks at the CSU Bookstore might want to hold on to their receipts.

Two companies, environmentally friendly in their respective ways, are giving campus bookstores across the nation competition.

BookRenter.com and AbeBooks.com offer alternative ways for students to get the textbooks they need for class. BookRenter is an online library of sorts. AbeBooks offers comparative pricing via text messaging and an option to buy online.


Jen Pelletier, spokesperson for Bookrenter.com, said her company, which was a trial version until Monday, allows students to search for books by title, author or ISBN number.

The rental period ranges from 30 days, for summer-type classes, to 125 days for semester classes.

The fee is determined by a complicated formula based on price and the availability of the book, Pelletier said. Eventually used books will be available for a lower price, she said.

Pelletier said to expect 50 percent off the retail price of each book. The money spent on renting the book is not reimbursed, even in part, at the end of the rental period. If a student decides to keep the book at the end of the semester, they simply let BookRenter know and will be charged the difference of the rental and retail price.

The books are all new books and should not be marked in, unlike the CSU Bookstore. BookRenter and Pelletier recommend using erasable highlighters. A link to the erasable highlighters exists on the Web site.

There are three different shipping methods: ground, two day and next day.

BookRenter is a green company, which means the company is environmentally friendly, Pelletier said.

“When you get your book in the mail, it comes with a pre-paid envelope to send the book back in,” she said. “It’s good for the environment to re-use books.”

While the company is focusing on textbooks, Pelletier said she thinks any book should be available in time.

“The way I like to think of it is like a Netflix for books,” Pelletier said.

BookRenter’s profits come from re-renting and re-using the books.


Richard Davies, an AbeBooks’ spokesperson, said his company has been around for about 11 years as an online marketplace similar to Ebay.

“We don’t touch or handle the books,” Davies said. “We put book sellers in contact with book buyers.”

Just like Ebay, AbeBooks makes a commission on each book.

Davies said students come mostly for the prices. Most campus bookstores, he said, sell out of used books quickly.

AbeBooks also offers something most online marketplaces don’t: text message comparison.

Davies said the easiest way to use the service is to text the ISBN without any spaces or dashes, one at a time, and wait. Within 60 seconds a price competitive to the campus bookstore will appear. From there is an opportunity to have the information and link forwarded to an email. Standard text message rates apply.

“Freshmen think there is no alternative to the bookstore,” Davies said. “Generally once they are at school for a semester, they accumulate debt. Then they become aware very quickly.”

Each school year Davies said AbeBooks sees a 20 to 25 percent growth. He estimated his competitors see the same.

CSU Bookstore

Director of the CSU Bookstore John Parry said the Bookstore sells more used textbooks than any other bookstore in Colorado.

Parry said 40 percent of the books the CSU Bookstore sold last year were used.

“We try extremely hard to get used books. We call seven to ten used book companies, depending on the popularity of the book,” Parry said. “Used books save students money.”

Parry said additional competitors like Ebay or Amazon have led to a flat market.

“We are not seeing increases in sales like we did (before),” Parry said.

Publishers determine book prices by numerous criteria, he said. For example, the cost of a textbook is more expensive to produce and edit than a book on the bestseller list.

A textbook can also be paired, or bundled, with things like CD’s or Internet access codes, which also makes the raises the price.

The CSU Bookstore is advantageous to students because it carries the books for all classes, Parry said. Also, any revenue beyond expenses is returned to CSU for the Lory Student Center.

“The money stays for the benefit of students,” Davies said.

At the end of the semester, the CSU Bookstore also buys books for 50 percent of the new price, whether or not the book was bought new or used, if it is being used the following semester.

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