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College textbooks for rent – direct from the publisher

How fast the market is changing! Not more than a decade ago, the headlines about college textbooks all stressed their high cost – and the fact that publishers seemed to have their buyers at a disadvantage.  Cash-strapped students needed these books and were often forced to spend even more for "bundles" (extra materials packaged along with the books) that they didn't want.

But today, between online used-book sales, digital texts, and new Internet textbook-rental businesses like Chegg and BookRenter, the advantage seems to be shifting to the buyer. So, in a scramble to keep up – and share in a slice of the rental-book market – one of the nation’s largest textbook publishers, Cengage Learning, announced yesterday that it would begin renting textbooks to students.

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Textbook renters will receive the first chapter of the book electronically, in e-book format, followed by the printed book. Rental contracts will run 60, 90 or 130 days. At their finish, students have the option of either buying or returning the book.

Cengage’s rental business will begin with several hundred titles this year, and then expand, Ronald G. Dunn, president and chief executive of Cengage, told the New York Times.

“The Internet has really changed everything in terms of our abilities to reach customers in different ways,” he said. “Our strategy has been to offer as many choices as we can, in terms of price points and different kinds of products. So if they choose not to buy the printed book, they can rent it, just as we already offer them the choice to buy an e-book, or a chapter.”