The rising price of textbooks has caused some students to look for books through alternative sources, but these companies aren’t pulling profits from at least one of Ohio State’s traditional bookstores.
One of these alternative sources is Packback, a website that rents digital textbooks to students for a 24-hour period with prices ranging from $3 to $5.
“We want to change how students rent textbooks and make them more affordable,” said Mark Eugling, a Packback employee who works in business development and professor outreach.
Packback offers about 4,000 electronic books that are available for daily rental, Eugling said.
When students rent books, Packback pays the publisher directly. This allows the publishers to keep making money, which stops them from raising the prices of future books, Eugling said.
“Every time we rent out a book, the publisher gets paid,” he said. “Bookstores keep all the profits when their used books are rented or sold. That means publishers lose money every time a student decides to buy or rent an old edition of their book.”
Eugling estimated students using Packback could spend 70 percent less on books.
Some students, like Usoshi Chatterjee, have turned to the Internet to find their books. By using popular torrent sites, she said she has nearly eliminated the need to buy books each semester.
Chatterjee, a second-year in chemical engineering, said a quick Google search has allowed her to find almost all of her books.
“I bought all of my books in my first semester and realized I didn’t really need them that much,” Chatterjee said. “Most of the books I download are in PDF format, which I think makes certain assignments easier. I can search the PDF for specific words that I need.”
Chatterjee said she would “possibly consider” using Packback, but only be if she “had no other option.”
“The 24-hour (rental period) is good for emergency purposes,” she said. “But in the end, it is good to have something continuously (available).”
Despite the influx of alternative textbook suppliers, Jay Trent, a general manager at Student Book Exchange, a bookstore located near OSU’s campus at 1806 N. High St., said the store is not losing money.
Trent said that these new online services have not hurt business, and thinks that local stores are doing better than ever.
“We have actually seen an increase in book rentals the last few years,” Trent said.
If anything, Trent said he thinks these new businesses have forced local bookstores to compete and lower prices.
Chatterjee said although she thinks the price of textbooks and the increased use of technology have contributed to more people choosing to seek out alternative textbook options, she does not think textbooks will ever completely go away.
“In general, people will always use physical textbooks,” she said. “They are handy to have on hand, but there is always a trade-off. Some people don’t have the means to access digital textbooks, but textbooks are expensive. Until people become more technologically-savvy, though, I think they will (continue) to use traditional textbooks.”