Conn. publisher says it will rent textbooks to college students

Hundreds of titles available in Dec.

Associated Press / August 14, 2009

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STAMFORD, Conn. - A college textbook publisher said yesterday it would become the first to rent titles directly to students, another option for those who are fed up with spending $100 or more to buy books they have little use for after a semester.

Cengage Learning, based in Stamford, Conn., said its rentals would cost 40 percent to 70 percent less than the suggested retail price.

Several hundred titles will be available in December, with more to follow next July.

Students may already rent textbooks, usually second-hand, through websites such as and, but publishers are largely cut out of that market.

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. The book would be shipped immediately. At the end of the rental term, students can return the books or purchase them, the company said.

The textbook industry has been trying to adjust to modern technologies that have upended what students and teachers expect from supplementary classroom materials, and the traditional models for selling and delivering them.

Among other experiments, a group that manages several hundred college bookstores is 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 may rent textbooks, in addition to the current options offered through its site, where students may buy printed textbooks, electronic textbooks, individual e-chapters, and audio books.