Western sophomore Loren Johnson browses the textbook section of the bookstore Wednesday, March 30. Students can now rent textbooks on the bookstore\u2019s website for up to 90 days at a time. Photo by Daniel Berman/The AS Review.

Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

Starting this quarter, the Western Associated Students Bookstore is offering textbook rentals and price comparisons through its website.

“We are always concerned with textbook affordability,” said Peg Godwin, general manager of the bookstore.  “We are always looking for tools that will help students get books in the fashion that’s best for them.”

The textbook rental program allows students to rent books for periods of 30, 45, 60 or 90 days at a time. Students rent books on the bookstore website and then return them to the bookstore when their rental period is over.

Godwin said that there has been a huge shift in the textbook market within the last two years toward students renting books rather than buying them.

“Probably about 50 to 60 percent of college bookstores are renting books now, and it’s driven by textbook affordability,” Godwin said. “Rental is typically the lowest-cost option at the front end, but it has no buyback, so it may not be the best value in long run. It does help lower that upfront cost though.”

The bookstore’s online textbook price comparison is run through a program called Verba Compare. Godwin said that if students choose to comparison shop, they can see the bookstore’s prices for new and used textbooks, as well as prices offered by Amazon.com, Half.com and four to five other large textbook retail companies. Godwin said that students can use the program to see where a book ships from, and they can also check the book’s condition.

“We always think that we’re by far and away the best value, but it does allow students to have a choice,” Godwin said. She added that for those who choose to buy from sources outside the bookstore, there’s not always a guarantee that their books will be of good quality, or that they will contain additional supplements such as workbooks or CD-ROMs.

“You, as a student, will make a decision as to whether you want to buy from us or other sites,” she said. “If you go to other sites, you must be aware that you’re not dealing with us anymore. It’s kind of ‘buyer beware.’”

Ben Brockman, AS vice president for business and operations, said that even though students may choose to buy from other sources when using the comparison software, in the end it will actually help the bookstore offer more competitive prices.

“Sometimes we’ll beat them [other retailers], sometimes we won’t, but it will be more convenient for students,” Brockman said. “This extra software allows us to lower our prices and be more competitive, which will save students money.”
The AS Bookstore is online at bookstore.wwu.edu.