Textbooks are an incredible ripoff, and the sort of ripoff that most adversely affects folks who are already financially strapped. This, then, seems like a pretty obvious idea: let students rent them, which is what Sacramento State is doing.
At the moment, the school’s program is still somewhat larval:
Parsons says every rental book will be at least 55 percent off. But they do have to be returned at the end of the semester, and not every book can be rented. Only classes like Psychology 101 and anatomy — basic subjects that teach the fundamentals — have books that can be rented. You won’t find the latest computer text or a book about the human genome, because the store has to be able to rent the books for at least four semesters to make money on them.
Students have been using the Internet to lessen the burden of textbook costs for awhile, now, and several useful sites have sprung up. Hopefully some student entrepreneur will take this rental thing all the way.