A column by Vick Warnsley in Mississippi State University’s The Reflector makes the case for a textbook rental program rather effectively. Students spend $800 – $900 per year on textbooks, yet only about 20 schools nationwide offer a textbook rental program.
There’s the update issue, of course—textbook publishers go out of their way to update the material as often as possible. But this isn’t a major obstacle:
Typically, the colleges and universities which institute a textbook rental system maintain the same textbook edition in its rental system for any number of semesters – generally three years for lower-level classes and two to three years for upper-level classes. Most instructors at each respective university which have a textbook rental system in place are encouraged to participate freely by committing to keep the same textbook for a number of semesters. Others require an instructor to utilize a textbook in the classroom for a period of semesters, while giving exception to update books only if the material taught changes. These steps help keep costs low for both those administrating the textbook rental service and the students.
More schools should take up this idea.