On Campus

Want to save hundreds of dollars this year?

Digital textbooks proliferate

Photo courtesy of Cipher on Flickr

It may not make up for high tuition bills, but Canadian students may be able to save hundreds of dollars this year on textbooks — if they rent digital copies instead of buying print versions.

Follett, which owns 35 campus bookstores in Canada, will offer discount digital books through the website Rent-a-Text to students at all of the schools where it operates. For a list, click here.

A survey conducted by the National Association of College Stores shows just how quickly the rental trend (including old-fashioned prints rentals) is taking off. In January, rentals were available at 2,200 of the 3,100 of the NACS member bookstores — up from only 300 stores a year-and-a-half earlier.

Rental prices ranged from 33 per cent to 55 per cent of the cost of buying a print copy. Considering that the University of Guelph asks students to budget $1,100 per year for textbooks, it’s easy to see how much those savings will add up for students who switch entirely to digital renting.

Amazon.com, the online bookstore, is making books even cheaper. They began renting e-textbooks to U.S. customers this week for as little as 20 per cent of the cost of buying them. The books can be viewed on e-readers, smartphones, tablets and computers for 180 days at a time. Amazon software has managed to overcome one of the main objections students had about rentals: not being able to keep their notes after the book disappears. The only catch is that they disappear after the semester is done.

Considering the likelihood of print books being read after graduation, that’s a small price to pay.

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