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Rent-a-text’ becomes a bookstore reality

John Cameron | Friday, September 10, 2010

One of the primary platforms student body president Catherine Soler ran on last year was a planned “Rent-a-text” program, which became a reality for students at the beginning of this semester.

A follow-up survey distributed to users in the Notre Dame Hammes Bookstore indicated the program was a success in helping students meet their textbook needs at a more affordable price, but the surveys also showed that students believed the number of titles available to rent could be expanded.

“Overall we found that students said they would rent more books if they could, if there were more titles available, which was something we expected to be a problem,” Andrew Bell, student body vice president, said. “Going in, that was one of our biggest concerns, that the number would be too low to keep the program sustainable. Not from a business standpoint, but in the eyes of the students.”

Currently, 35 percent of the textbooks at the Bookstore can be rented. Despite a large portion of titles not being included in the program, Notre Dame’s renting program contains the eighth highest volume of any university bookstore in the nation.

Bell said the reason more titles aren’t available for rent is because professors were uncertain of whether the program would be a success, so many did not to commit to in the program’s debut semester.

“For a textbook to be rentable, it has to be used for a certain number of semesters,” Bell said. “Professors wouldn’t just switch over to a program and commit to a book if they weren’t sure the program would work.”

While Bell’s primary goal is getting more professors participating in the program, he said the priority remains providing students with the best academic resources and overall education.

“We’re going to collaborate [with the Bookstore] to encourage professors to consider rentable textbooks,” he said. “By no means do we want them to consider books that would lower the academic quality of the class, that wouldn’t be worth it.”

In addition to the original paper survey, an electronic survey will soon be sent to the student body in an e-mail. Bell said student government and the Bookstore are continuing to seek student feedback to further improve the program.

“We’re still open to input on things that worked, but especially to things that didn’t,” he said. “We want to make it better and take steps toward providing cheaper textbooks, and we think this is one of the great new ways we’ve found to do that.”

Bell considers the Rent-a-text program an imperfect success and a work-in-progress.

“It was an achievement getting it into the bookstore, but it is by no means the end of our involvement in the program,” Bell said.