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College publisher will rent textbooks to students
Posted 8/13/2009 6:45 PM ET
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — A college textbook publisher said Thursday it would become the first to rent titles directly to students, another option for students fed up with spending $100 or more to buy books they have little use for after a semester.

Stamford, Conn.-based Cengage Learning said its rentals would cost 40% to 70% less than the suggested retail price. Several hundred titles will be available starting in December, with more to follow next July.

Students can already rent textbooks, usually second hand, through websites such as and, but publishers are largely cut out of that market. The publishers say a major reason their prices sometimes reach three figures is that the initial sale is their only chance to collect revenue.

By renting directly to students, Cengage could collect revenue several times on each printed copy.

Students renting a book would get immediate access to an electronic version of the first chapter, and then be shipped the book, the company said. At the end of the rental term, students can return the books or purchase them.

The announcement comes as the industry tries to adjust to modern technologies that have upended what students and teachers expect from supplementary classroom materials and also the traditional models for selling and delivering them.

Among other experiments, a group that manages several hundred college bookstores is currently running a trial rental program. Meanwhile, Inc. is aiming the new, bigger version of its Kindle electronic reading device at the college market, with six universities running Kindle pilots this fall.

Cengage said it would launch a gateway site called where students can rent textbooks, on top of current options offered through its site to buy printed textbooks, electronic textbooks, individual e-chapters and audio books.

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Posted 8/13/2009 6:45 PM ET