A Textbook Guru Report

More Rental Options for the College Bookstore, New Survey Results


The battle over textbook rentals is moving off line and into the campus bookstore, and the turf up for grabs includes both institutional and private stores. During our

CAMEX recap, we shared stories about Follett’s new partner program with independent bookstores, as well as a new partnership between Chegg and ICBA and one between BookRenter.com and NACS. And the trend continues with other companies following suit.


South Eastern Book Co. Joins Forces with CollegeBookRenter.com
SEB, through their $10-million investment in CollegeBookRenter becomes an in-store rental player catering to the needs of today’s college students by offering an online textbook rental program. SEB Rental customizes each bookstore’s rental site using the appropriate school colors and bookstore logo. Unlike its competitors that require a 7-10 day turnaround, SEB guarantees that a bookstore’s rental site will be live within three business days of the initial request. SEB provides the necessary customer support and IT assistance and even facilitates customer returns. SEB will assume any losses associated with students’ failure to return textbooks, and bookstores will collect a 10% commission on all textbooks rented through their SEB rental site. SEB Rental offers a store-reporting function and the company provides promotional materials to drive traffic to bookstores’ rental sites and help ensure their success.

CAMEX RECAP – Rental, Digital, and Bankruptcy!

Last week was the annual Campus Market Expo. The 2011 event was held in Houston, Texas, and while this show is for anything and everything college bookstores, the textbook industry favors the expo as a launching pad for new programs, training, and announcements, as well as a chance to set the stage for the August back-to-school season. So what’s the scoop on CAMEX 2011?  What was the buzz? What were the trends? And what were the expectations? Keep reading to find out.
Like general e-commerce, textbook rental was again center stage. In addition to the traditional CAMEX vendors, several online rental companies, including BookRenter.com, CampusBookRentals.com (through Bookstore Solutions), and Chegg, were present at the show. 

Surrounding the event were several important press releases regarding rental and the rental players:

  • BookRenter.com announced its partnership with NACS in order to position the move as uniting online rentals and bricks-and-mortar college stores as the ultimate source for affordable textbooks.
  • BookRenter also had a nice timely release on the company’s stability and immediate intentions as they announced raising a Series-C round of funding in the amount of  $40 million.
  • Chegg announced its partnership with the Independent College Bookstore Association in a new commitment to deliver affordable textbook rentals to campuses nationwide.
  • Follett announced a new online-rental solution for independent bookstores.


The iPad2: Changing the Education Game?


(Image courtesy of Engadget)

Yesterday, Apple (in the form of Steve Jobs himself) announced the eagerly anticipated iPad2. The new device is leagues beyond the original of a year ago and heads above the competition. Faster, more powerful, lighter, slimmer, more connectivity, heavy on multimedia tools, with a camera and loads of apps, the iPad2 is really bridging the gaps between laptop, netbook, and tablet.

And the kicker? Same price as the original iPad, which started at just $499.

In the presentation yesterday, we saw lots of pointing to the iPad2’s role in education. From the image of the intersection between Technology and Liberal Arts streets to those of the teacher using the device as a presentation tool in the classroom, the vibe was definitely that it was a viable device for education. But as for specifics, there isn’t really anything new or directly targeted toward students and the iPad2’s role for students was merely sort of vaguely implied. As well, iBookstore remains the source for books for the iPad2, but it’s not as if many academic publishers have come on board and made their textbooks for sale in that format.


A decrease in Pell Grant spending: Should we be concerned?


My quick answer to the question is “Yes, we should!” Simply put, any time money is taken away from college students, more students will find it harder to afford college. Many families prioritize saving for retirement first and paying for education second, based on the assumption that they can usually find money and assistance to help pay for college, but that it is more difficult to find money to fund life after retirement.


Let’s look more closely into these proposed Pell-Grant cuts so we can better understand them. According to CNNMoney.com’s article “Obama’s budget to target education Pell grants,” the cuts will come in two ways:

  1. Students will no longer be eligible for two Pell grants per year. In the past, students could apply for one grant for the regular semester and then another grant for summer school. Now students are limited to one or the other.
  2. The second cut affects graduate and professional students and comes in the form of how the government will pay the interest on loans to those enrolled in these programs.
In all, the purpose of the proposed cuts is to save around 100 billion dollars over a 10-year period, but to what effect? How will these cuts affect enrollment and graduation and drop-out rates? It is clear that with new Pell-Grant limitations, college students will have to spend more of their own money or find alternative funding in order to get degrees. According to FastWeb.com’s article “Congress Proposes Big Cuts in Pell Grants,” the proposal will cause more than a million students to lose eligibility for the Pell Grant as it exists now. The article states that every $100 change in the maximum Pell Grant corresponds to about 200,000 recipients, and the proposed change will impact 1.7 million low-income students.
According to “The Rising Price of Inequality: How Inadequate Grant Aid Limits College Access and Persistence,” a report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there is a growing gap between those who aspire and are qualified to go to college and their ability to meet the financial requirements for enrollment. So is this program of proposed Pell-Grant cuts short sited? If we take our brightest minds and place them in schools where they will not be academically challenged (or deny them higher education entirely), will we produce the top-quality college graduates we need to lead us into the future? Are we mortgaging our future for short-term savings?

Flat rental sales, changing leaders: Recap of January Rush, 2011



With the hectic back-to-school rush now over, I’ve had some time to sit back, wrap my head around the numbers, and try to make sense of everything. Hopefully, doing so will provide some perspective as to where the market is headed and what we all can expect as we get ready for the August rush. Below are my findings and some explanations based on comparisons and sales from CampusBooks.com.

Rental Increases Compared to January 2010, but Flat Compared to August 2010

The recent growth of textbook rentals is on the minds of everyone in our industry, but is the market continuing to grow? The answer is both yes and no. January 2011 compared to January 2010 shows that rentals increased in market share from 4% of revenue to 14% for a 350% growth rate. When we look at January 2011 compared to August 2010, we actually see a slight decline from 16% to 14%.