Appalachian State Textbook Rental Program Worth Emulating

Written by  //  08/27/2009  //  Personal Advice  //  10 Comments

College students are suffering from a bad case of sticker shock especially if they’ve recently shopped for new textbooks through their university bookstore. Prices for some titles easily top $100, with annual costs in excess of $1000 for some students. Indeed, U.S. PIRG has noted that students pay an average of $900 a year on textbooks, which amounts to as much as twenty percent of the cost of tuition at some universities.

NACS Flap has been urging our readers to explore their textbook rental options in a bid to save money. We’re continuing to do this despite the opposition of the National Association of College Stores (NACS) whose media campaign this summer has sought to undermine the entire textbook rental industry. Their “four textbook purchasing myths” campaign offered nothing new other than a concerted effort against companies such as, and who help students save hundreds of dollars. Shame on the NACS for attempting to scare students to purchase outrageously overpriced textbooks!

I recently learned that Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, North Carolina offers a textbook rental program worth exploring. Available to ASU students only, the program was first established in 1938, when ASU operated as a teacher’s college. Back then, the cost to students was just $5 per quarter and for freshmen students only. Since then, the program has been expanded to reach all undergraduate students and is operated through the college bookstore.

Big Textbook Rental Savings

ASU says that having a textbook rental program in place has made a difference for families who were considering other schools. ASU claims that the over the four years that students are in attendance, the program saves students hundreds of dollars.

The current version of the ASU book rental program covers one book per class per semester. Students taking summer classes or those classes requiring more than one textbook, must be pay for those books – no rental option is offered. Still, the vast majority of students can take their classes at ASU without paying big bucks for a new textbook.

What ASU Achieves

ASU students are given a date each semester when books can be picked up at the university bookstore and another date when they must be returned by, which is several days after the semester has ended. Failure to return a rented book means that the student will be charged accordingly.

Certainly, not every college can establish an in-house rental program along the lines of ASU. Ideally, a program of this kind would rent books to all students with no restriction on the number of books rented per class, per semester. Of course, ASU students can do as other students across the country have been doing over the past few years – rent their textbooks from private companies who offer deals that NACS stores cannot possibly match.

See Also — Off to College: Avoid the College Bookstore!

Adv. — Do you need financial aid for this semester? Have you exhausted all other options? If you answered yes to both questions, then visit your Sallie Mae lender for more information or call them directly at 866-530-9523.

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10 Comments on "Appalachian State Textbook Rental Program Worth Emulating"

  1. Charles Schmidt 08/28/2009 at 11:19 am ·

    Mr. Keegan, I don’t know where you make your leap in logic that just because NACS cautions against the dangers and uncertainties of online textbook purchases that we are anti-renting? Nowhere in our literature do we take an anti-rental stance.

    We are all about students getting the most VALUE for their textbook dollar. In fact, we are proud that more than 100 NACS members offer textbook rental options — Appalachian State being among them.

    In addition, the vast majority of our more than 3,000 college store members work hard to provide affordably-priced used textbooks.

    In addition, our members are promoting a new web site that we developed in conjunction with the IRS:, how students can take best advantage of the new Textbook Tax Credit.

    Listen, I’m not saying that in all cases the college bookstore is cheaper, but neither is it always more expensive or the villian that you seem to deem them. A recent Florida study found that students purchasing new college textbooks online saved an average of only $2.15 per item. In fact, online prices were HIGHER for 27% of the textbooks examined by the study.

    Charles Schmidt, Dir. or PR
    Nat’l. Assn. of College Stores

  2. Matt Keegan 08/28/2009 at 4:50 pm ·


    Thank you for your response.

    I’m not comparing apples with apples, rather apples with oranges. Apples are the purchase of new textbooks while oranges are the rental of the same. There is a clear price difference, one that sixteen states recognize and have decided to do something about, by offering students real alternatives.

    Unfortunately, many colleges and universities are in cahoots with bookstores, as evidenced by the requirements that students purchase a special edition of a certain book:

    This practice is outrageous and speaks to what I have long held — many college bookstores are profit-making enterprises who routinely contribute (kick back) some of this money to the college. Thusly, I don’t just blame the bookstores but the college themselves.

    Matt Keegan
    .-= Matt Keegan´s last blog ..How To Help Your Clients (When They Aren’t Even Asking) =-.

  3. Jason Hale 04/22/2010 at 11:43 pm ·

    Dear Matt,

    I appreciate the fact that you want to help students contain the cost of course materials throughout their college years. However, you seem to place inordinant amount of blame for the cost of a textbook on individual bookstores. I am an employee of one such store and have been for two years; and a graduate of the university we serve. The store is privately owned (not opperated by Follett, Nebraska, MBS, ect…) While I am glad you take an interest in lowering the cost of education, I would have liked to see a well researched article, rather than a blanket indictment of college bookstores with only a single school referenced (and that store appearently not contacted based on a lack of testimony.) There are pros and cons for any method of textbook aquision, but you failed to mention any cons assiotiated with textbook rental (if I were more cynical I would suspect some collusion on your part with a textbook rental organization.) There are obvious pros to ASU’s program, but for that system to work effectively it likely requires extensive cooperation from the faculty and administration (ASU’s rental program is ONLY availible to ASU students, suggesting some university involvement.) Rental programs can save students money, but only if that is their intention. If a university has contracted with a national wholesaler (see above), their interests may not coinside with the individual interests of the students. The same holds true with many online renters. In addtion to that, most college bookstores I have seen do not publish their their own books, they buy them from a publisher at a given cost and mark them up (to pay for overhead, student employees, POS systems, websites, ect.) around 20%-25%, its called a standard operating procedure. Please, my friend, if you feel like making a difference do your due diligence and research someting before you wright it. Here are a couple of links that may be a bit out of date, but nonetheless unbiased.,…/ExploringTextbookRental_3-7_HO6_Informational.pdf. This is an important issue, please respond. I will be happy to discuss anything I have said, privately or publicly, at your discression.

    Jason Hale

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