KU Bookstores' web site now features a tool that allows students to compare prices of buying a book at the store, renting it or purchasing it from another service such as Amazon or Half.com. The store is also able to print select titles on demand.

KU Bookstores introduces textbook rental, price comparison, print-on-demand options

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When faced with hefty textbook costs, students used to have only two options: fork over the money or take their chances without the books. This semester, KU Bookstores has started offering students several new options including book rental, price comparisons (from online retailers) and even print-on-demand materials.

The store has launched a new tool on its website, kubookstore.com, that allows students to search for books they need by course, then compare pricing options between buying it at the store, renting it, buying it from Amazon.com or Half.com or, for selected titles, having a version printed in the Kansas Union.

"Basketball: Its Origins and Development," by James Naismith is one of many books Jayhawk Ink can print on demand. The book will be featured at the store's open house Sept. 8.

KU is one of a small number of universities in the nation offering the service. Estella McCollum, director of the KU Bookstore, said KU is one of only four “large schools” taking part in the program to help campus bookstores be more competitive in the online marketplace.

“I think students have appreciated having the option,” McCollum said of the store’s new analytical tool. “We can show them that, yes, you can afford the book and pay less.”

One might wonder how renting a textbook is different than buying it and selling it back at the end of the semester. Students can choose how long they want to rent it, either 30, 60 or 125 days. The price is normally lower than purchase price, and the book must be returned at the end of the rental period or a replacement fee is assessed. When purchasing a book, there is not a guarantee that books will be bought back after purchased.

KU was the first college to participate in publisher Follett's partnership with Bookrenter.com to offer the service. McCollum said renting is often an attractive option for students who might not be able to pay full price for a book.

As of Aug. 25, 544 orders had been made through the book rental option on the store’s site. There were more than 6,700 site visits at that point and students had saved an estimated $80,500 through renting, McCollum said.

Those who don’t wish to buy or rent a book have a fourth option: print on demand.

"Abnormal Psychology: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments," by David S. Holmes, professor of psychology, is one example of a textbook that can be printed on demand at Jayhawk Ink.

Oread Books recently transitioned to Jayhawk Ink, a store that still offers general interest books and magazines but is now equipped with state-of-the-art Hewlett Packard book printing equipment. The store will print a set amount of books that are available for in-store printing and put them on the shelves. If more are needed, they can be produced.

“With this, we’re essentially never out of stock on the printable titles,” McCollum said. “We just have a more efficient option for purchasing.”

The bookstore has an agreement with a few academic publishers to print titles and can print course packets, which include required readings such as journal articles and professor’s notes. Jayhawk Ink can print public domain titles such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” or Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for only the cost of materials and can customize them in “Jayhawk Editions.” They hope to expand to print student projects, books, portfolios, cookbooks and other projects as the semester progresses.

Jayhawk Ink will hold an open house Sept. 8. The store will give away Jayhawk editions of “Basketball: Its Origins and Development” by James Naismith with a purchase of any KU sports book.

The new options have proven popular, but it doesn’t appear the traditional method of buying a book at the store is in danger. McCollum said 80 percent of people who buy books through the site’s new comparison portal purchase them from the store. The other 20 percent are split among the other three options. She noted that all of the store’s profits support Student Success and the impetus behind the new options was to provide a service to students in helping them find the best possible deals on textbooks.

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