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Bookstore tops rental rate

More than 20,000 units were rented from Temple’s bookstore since 2011.

Of all 647 Barnes & Noble College bookstores, Temple’s has the highest textbook rental rate, company officials said.

To determine this, the company examines the percentage of titles available to rent compared to the number of titles rented.

“Temple is at the very top of rental schools, driven by very large freshman classes. Students at Temple rent at a rate higher than the company average,” said Jade Roth, vice president for textbook and digital strategy for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers.

The bookseller introduced rentals in 2011. More than 20,000 units were rented from Temple’s bookstore last semester, a personal record for the university. Books for the Intellectual Heritage curriculum led all rentals, Jen Ryskalchick, Temple’s bookstore manager, said.

“A lot of the reasoning behind why students rent [for Mosaics],” Ryskalchick said, is because “it’s not something they’re going to hold onto for the rest of their life.”

The company determined Temple students saved $1,076,388 on textbooks from renting last year, which Ryskalchick and Joyce Jefferson, assistant store manager, said amounts to approximately as much spent on rentals, given that rental prices are typically 50 percent of the new purchase price.

Used books are 75 percent of the new price, with digital versions at 40 percent. Students are not limited to the number of books they rent.

“It’s an option that students really are leaning toward and our company is committed to making textbooks cost-effective and that’s one of the ways that they’re doing it. To try and expand the title list,” Ryskalchick said.

In its 2012 fiscal year, Barnes & Noble College reported sales of $1.74 billion. The division saw a 1.9 percent sales decrease of $34.5 million, and a 0.3 percent sales decrease among stores, all of which the company attributed to greater rental sales.

The division’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization decreased by $5 million from the 2012 to 2013 fiscal years, also attributed to higher textbook rentals.

However, the company is not expected to shrink its list of rental titles. Barnes & Noble College said most of its profits come during the second and third semesters of the academic year, when students buy textbooks for the upcoming semester.

Nida Naseer, a senior biology major, rented a book for a biostatistics class.

“I didn’t think I would need it after. I’d prefer to rent them. It’s better than trying to sell them back at the end,” she said. Naseer said she still has an ecology book she cannot sell back.

The company does not need permission from publishers to make titles available for rent. The bookstore receives book lists from professors, and the store works with the company to determine the “longevity of the book,” its likelihood to be used at other campuses, as well as the size of the book’s publisher.

“If the publisher tells us that it’s going to go into a new edition next semester, we’re not going to rent it because probably next semester the faculty member’s going to want the new edition. So it doesn’t make sense for us to rent it next semester,” Jefferson said.

Ryskalchick added the company does not “rent things that come with a consumable item, like an access code, workbook where people write in them – we don’t rent those. Custom textbooks that are just used on this campus – we don’t rent those.”

She said she does not get many special requests for newly rentable books.

“I communicate with over a 1,000 instructors and maybe 20 of them a semester ask me if their book can be rentable,” Ryskalchick said.

“I feel like people who don’t want to keep textbooks it’s a good idea to rent but…I’ve accumulated books and I’ve found that I literally can find the same or cheaper price to buy them used,” senior economic major Julia Kleinhans said. “So if you can get it and have it for the same price why would you have to give it back?”

“They’ll keep [renting] at a steady pace. It keeps the students coming back,” Jefferson said. “Students want to save money and we’re trying to keep it as cost-efficient for you guys as we possibly can. And offering it to you and then ripping it back out of your hands kind of won’t work.”

Although Kleinhans rented a book last year in a time crunch, she said she’s bought books more often than rented.

“Honestly I think I’ve probably purchased more than rented,” Kleinhans said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t buy new books, and I’ve stopped using the bookstore at all, because it’s just ridiculous how expensive books there are compared to online or at Zavelle’s.”

Amelia Brust can be reached at abrust@temple.edu.

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