Cal State’s Rent Digital Allows Cost Savings on Virtual Textbooks

The California State University (CSU) is offering students the option to rent electronic books through its Rent Digital program that allows students to procure digital versions of textbooks to save money.

The university launched Rent Digital last year to offer students the option to save 60% or more compared to purchasing a new print textbook. The university has agreements with Cengage Learning, CourseSmart, Follett, Barnes & Noble, Schlager Milestone Documents and W.W. Norton to allow CSU students access to thousands of popular e-textbooks at discounted prices.

The digital material will be available to students for the length of the academic term through laptops, desktops, tablets and other devices. It can be accessed online or offline, and includes interactive capabilities including printing, note-taking and highlighting, according to CSU.

By this fall, the number of titles offered under Rent Digital is set to grow to an estimated 45,000 from the initial 5,000 in 2012, according to Karen Kucher of Union-Tribune San Diego.

The program, which guarantees a 60% price cut on popular textbooks, allows students and professors to access steeply discounted electronic versions of textbooks at the system's 23 campuses through campus bookstores or online.

"One of the advantages we have as the CSU is we are a large player," said Erik Fallis, a university spokesman. "We have 437,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff. When you have something of this scale, it allows you to enter into discussions in a way that small colleges can't possibly do."

The rental program, according to the officials, saved students around $1.5 million in its first year. It is estimated that the savings would be total $17 million a year if one-third of CSU students opt to rent a $100 textbook instead of buy it. According to bookstore managers, on average, it costs about half the price to rent a $100 textbook electronically.

Search engine giant Google also announced that it plans to launch a new channel for digital textbooks to Google Play in August this year, according to Pulse

Google Play is a marketplace for its Android apps. Google, which made this announcement at an event in San Francisco, California, said this new channel will enable students to buy and rent digital textbooks through the web, Android devices, and Apple iOS devices.

The company did not disclose textbook pricing for purchases or rentals.

Textbook's subjects include math, chemistry, law, accounting, etc. Content will be sold at an 80% discount in some cases.

Google Play's digital textbook section will include a comprehensive selection of titles from America's five major textbook companies. Students can buy or rent textbooks for up to 6 months.

"Instead of a 400 page doorstop, Google Play books brings you awesome new features like search, bookmarks, highlighting, notes and even night mode, so you don't wake your roommate," Google Play Product Manager Ellie Powers said.

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