Like many students, UC Merced sophomore Demonte Hughes is gearing up for the fall semester. At the top of his list is securing the textbooks required for his courses, which he says is a good portion of his budget — between $300 and $400 a semester.
“Students are all low on money in general, so it is hard to buy every book,” Hughes said.
Kevin Storms, director of the campus’s bookstore, said students like Hughes will be able to see some upfront savings this year. This is the first semester the Campus Store has launched book rentals offering savings up to 70 percent off purchasing new.
“Ultimately, we want to get the material into the students’ hands so they can be successful,” said Storms, who has been working on the rental program for three years. “Surveys have shown that some students elect to go without required books.”
Renting textbooks isn’t new to Hughes, a chemical sciences major. Through the Fiat Lux program on campus, he has been able to rent many of his books for classes. He is happy that other students will be able to do the same.
“Having the book for class gives you a better chance of getting good grades,” Hughes said. “Renting will make students more likely to get the books they need to succeed.”
Book publishers and distributors are partnering with campus bookstores, like UC Merced’s, to bring savings to students. For example, students can purchase the required textbook for ECON 1 new for $256.50, buy it used for $192.38, or rent it new for $125 or used for $90.
Of the 619 titles available for the fall semester, 120 can be rented and that list will grow every year.
Kisha McGuire from Livingston, who has yet to declare her major in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, is glad to hear about the new rental program, but said she will still opt to purchase her books.
“I always like to keep the books that I purchase for school. That way I can always refer back to them, or I can let a friend borrow one if they need it,” McGuire said. “I think having the option to rent a book can be beneficial because it gives students more options.”
In addition to reducing out-of-pocket expenses for students, Storms said renting textbooks also helps the Campus Store stay relevant. He and his team continually look for ways to connect with students, including hiring mostly student employees, holding contests and providing new products and clothing.
In the coming months, the bookstore will provide students the ability to compare book prices online through a system called Verba. Through the bookstore’s website, students will be able to immediately see who has the textbooks they need and the pricing.
“It ultimately puts the choice in the students’ hands,” Storms said. “They can choose whether they want to purchase a new or used book or rent one, and where they get it from.”
What will students do with the money they save?
“I will use the money for trips back home,” said Hughes, who travels by Amtrak to Inglewood once every three months.