Eastern bookstore now offers books for rent. (Maggie LaFleur)

By Stephanie Smith

At the beginning of every semester, students begrudgingly turn over hundreds of dollars to purchase textbooks for their classes. But more students are reaching for a new option: Rather than buying the books outright, they’re paying a lot less and renting them instead.

The practice of renting textbooks has actually been available to students for years. But it got a boost this semester when Eastern’s bookstore embraced the practice and started renting books to students.

“Everyone enjoys saving money,” said Allison Rice, the general merchandise manager for the EKU Bookstore.

Renting books first took off among college students a few years ago with the rise of Chegg, an online textbook rental website. Soon after, University Book & Supply in Richmond began renting out a portion of its textbooks as well.

“I think the students really like renting,” said Becky Coyle, general manager of UBS.

This semester, Eastern’s campus bookstore followed suit, making around 30 percent of its titles available for rent, Rice said. Students interested in renting textbooks are required to have a valid credit card, and the bookstore keeps the number on file should students fail to return the book. The card will only be charged if the student doesn’t return the book or the book is damaged beyond what the bookstore considers “normal wear and tear.” Highlighting, dog-earing, and other typical studying practices are usually acceptable, but more extreme things, such as water damage, are not, Rice said.

As far as returning them goes, students have until ten days after the last day of finals to return their textbooks.

If they’re late or not returned, their credit cards will be charged the full price of the book and a processing fee, Rice said. But Rice added that students will receive email reminders as the due date draws near.

Most students said they were unaware that renting books was an option available to them. Among those who were aware, they said they loved the practice, adding that renting has made the book buying experience a lot less painful.

“I thought it was easy, convenient and appealing for a college student’s budget,” said Ashley Hollar, a senior history education major from Richmond. “Seeing as how you don’t get hardly anything when returning a book you bought, it’s cheaper in the long run.”

Chris Hartsfield, the store manager of The Campus Bookstore, which is located on the Eastern Bypass, said he’s not convinced that renting textbooks is in students’ best interests. .

“In the long run, you save more money buying the book and selling it back,” Hartsfield said.

Hartsfield, however, said his store does rent textbooks as a convenience to students. But he added that he does that because all the other stores were doing so, and he wanted to offer the same services.

Regardless of whether renting makes more sense than buying, most of the store managers said they believe it’s a practice that’s here to stay.

“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback,” Rice said.