Online Book Rental System
About half the nation's major college and university bookstores offered textbook rentals. The National Association of College Stores says about 1,500 of its 3,000 members are running rental programs. - The expansion was driven in part by federal lawmakers, who endorsed a pilot program for rentals because of concern over the $600 to $900 students spend buying books each year. Twelve schools were awarded up to $1 million each this fall under a congressionally mandated Education Department effort to create book rental programs, several of them targeting lower-income or first-generation immigrant college freshmen. But at many colleges, the programs are limited by the number of available titles, publishers who release frequent new editions and professors who think their right to choose course materials is essential to academic freedom. Schools and publishing experts say the programs are expensive to start up and difficult to operate. In addition, publishers face no consequences if they fail to comply with a federal law requiring publishers to give professors the price of textbooks and to list revisions to new editions. The law, which went into effect this year, also asks schools to release book lists the ISBNs and retail price details of all textbooks on their online course schedule, so that students can have the information they need to shop around in advance for best prices before classes begin. "We are prohibited even from enforcing it," said Jane Glickman, an Education Department spokeswoman. "It's like guidance to the schools." James V. Koch, an economics professor at Old Dominion University and former college president who has studied the textbook market, said that for a rental system to be profitable, books have to be standardized. "Some faculty members look at this and see it as a violation of their academic freedom," he said. Bruce Hildebrand, of the American Publishers Association, said students can buy cheaper...
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