Bookstore to launch textbook rental program

West Los Angeles College, Glendale Community College and Amazon all have it, and soon Santa Monica College may join them, as plans to implement a textbook rental system may unfold as early as this upcoming winter semester.

“I really think it will be implemented starting winter session,” said David Dever, manager of the SMC bookstore. “We are now negotiating with several companies. We want to start in a smaller venue like a winter session to work out the kinks before a full semester like spring.”

A plan to initiate a textbook rental system at SMC has been a topic of much discussion and interest for some time now. With textbook prices as high as they are, the start of a rental system could mean a huge change for SMC students.

According to a report released in June from the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s website, the price of college textbooks has increased three times faster than the rate of inflation, resulting in an overall 82 percent increase in the last decade.

“I always look on Amazon,, and ask my friends if they own, or know someone that owns, the book I need,” said SMC student Stephanie Alonso.

“I’ve found those websites very helpful, and I have purchased several of my books off of students, so a rental system sounds great,” she said. “Once the class is over, I’ll just store the book under my bed, and it just sits there collecting dust until someone buys it off me.”

SMC student Peter Guerrero expressed a similar view.

“A rental system will help me as well as other students who struggle to get books,” he said. “College is already expensive enough as it is, and a little help wouldn’t hurt.”

At West Los Angeles College, the rental system has a library of over 5,000 books available to be rented at up to 60 percent of the retail price, according to the college’s website. Any student enrolled in the current semester can participate in the rental system with a printout of the student’s enrollment fee, a credit or debit card, and a California or student ID.

Once the textbooks are returned, however, the student does not receive any money back as “the rental price of the book reflects the cost of using the book for the semester as well as a significant saving over the regular price of the book,” according to West LA College’s website.

Here at SMC, Dever said they have tried other ways to help students receive the textbooks they need.

“We always try to buy books back from students, and what the college has done to help students is get cheaper loose-leaf books because publishers don’t have to add glue, gloss and nice photos to them,” said Dever.

However, the publishing companies know that these loose-leaf books cannot be re-sold, and next year students will have no choice but to buy another.

Dever said that publishing companies try to drive out the used-book sales so they can retain the market share. They do this by issuing new editions of textbooks as well as releasing them with single-use pass codes that allow the publishing companies to effectively kill the resale value of used textbooks with the knowledge that students need to get their hands on the books, whatever the cost.

Many SMC students look across the street on Pico Boulevard at A&R; Textbooks for bargains.

Marc Yoon, A&R; Textbook’s manager, said that a rental system at the store has not yet been discussed.

“The SMC campus bookstore can implement a rental system, but we are separate and haven’t thought about it,” he said.

At the early stages of discussion about the rental system at SMC, talks were about charging students for half the book value, and if they did not return it in time, then they would pay the full price.

“We didn’t think that was a good system,” said Dever.

Since then, there are still contracts and paperwork to clear before official plans are finalized.