August 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Textbooks too costly? eCampus.com lets students rent them online

ECampus.com adds a rental option that lets students rent and return textbooks at an average cost of up to 50% less than buying them new.

College students can add renting their increasingly pricey textbooks as an option to buying them at discount textbook retailer eCampus.com, which announced the new rental program in time for the fall term.

The “rent and return” program covers thousands of the most commonly used college textbook titles, according to eCampus. Books can be rented for a standard semester or for 60 or 90 days, says Mark Carson, eCampus vice president of customer experience. On average, the cost of renting books is up to 50% less than the cost of buying new textbooks, Carson estimates.

Students enter the titles and International standard book numbers of the books they wish to rent on the site, and they receive the books by the shipping method they specify. If they choose UPS ground shipping, which the site recommends, in-stock books ship the next day and arrive within a few business days, Carson says. Students also can choose expedited shipping. The International Standard Book Number is a classification used to identify books, with a 10-digit code to signify the publisher, the country of origin and the title.

At the end of the semester, students visit eCampus.com and follow instructions for returning the book. They receive an authorization number for the return, print the free UPS label and ship it back to the retailer.

If the books return in good condition and on time, there are no other fees. If a book is returned in poor condition or late, eCampus charges a full or partial fee depending on the extent of the damage, or an extension fee in the case of a return more than two weeks late. Both of these requirements are spelled out in the rental agreement. The agreement also allows students to highlight, but not make notes in books.

ECampus, which also sells news and used textbooks as well as digital textbooks for e-book readers, sees textbooks rentals as an extension of what it already offers, Carson says. Though the program just launched, “It’s going well and we’re pleased,” he adds. ECampus.com is No. 210 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites.

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