University of Toronto students can look forward to some savings when shopping for textbooks this semester.

Over the summer, the U of T Bookstore launched a pilot program which gave students the chance to rent their textbooks as opposed to purchasing them. The test run was so successful that the bookstore decided to increase the number of texts available through the program.

“The pilot was very positive in that the response overall has been quite positive from students and faculty and that we learned how to best handle the process so we are ready to get it right on a larger scale in September,” Chad Saunders, the U of T Bookstore’s VP Retail, told The Varsity.

In September 2010, the U of T Bookstore conducted a student survey that showed 66 percent of students were interested in renting textbooks. Many American colleges and universities currently offer this option to their students, but U of T is the first Canadian post-secondary school to do so. Also, the U of T Bookstore researched what students don’t like about rental programs in the U.S. and will now be applying these lessons to their own program.

“The inspiration for the program was simply that we are embracing innovation and listening to students,” said Saunders. “The one theme that continues through all of our student survey results is that students want better value.”

“Rent it, use it, return it. Rent your textbooks and save,” reads the U of T Bookstore’s website: and save they will. According to Saunders, the rent-a-text program has the potential to save students approximately 40 percent off each textbook, which makes for substantial savings, considering how many textbooks the average student carrying a full course load is required to purchase each semester. This program is an especially cost-effective option for students who do not anticipate keeping their books once their courses are completed.

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For now, only new books will be rented. At the end of the semester, the student will return the textbook (some highlighting and note-taking is acceptable) and the U of T Bookstore will either offer the used book for sale if it is still being used in the upcoming semester’s curriculum or will sell it to used-book wholesalers.

And this is where recent U of T English and history graduate Tara Wells thinks the program may be flawed.

While Wells believes offering students the opportunity to rent textbooks is a good idea, she also believes the U of T Bookstore may end up losing money in the long run.

“Oftentimes I’ve come across a book or two on my reading list that I know I will never refer to again and that I may only end up reading a quarter of so renting would be far more economical,” explained Wells, 23, who also acquired a post-graduate Certificate in Marketing from U of T. “But I’d say that a downside is that if it is a textbook that gets updated every few years, it would be questionable as to whether the bookstore would invest in this program, since they would eventually have a surplus of outdated textbooks on their hands.”

Saunders was unable to inform The Varsity of the general profit margin on these rentals.

“This is very difficult to say today as there are many factors involved that make it quite different from selling a book,” he said. “The truth is, we are committed to bringing as much value as we can so if we can find a way to lower prices even further, we will do it. We are leading in Canada in offering this solution to students and we will work hard to continue to do that in the near future.”

Although textbook sales are a large component of the Women’s Bookstore’s profits, manager Victoria Moreno remains confident that the store will not suffer at the hands of the U of T Bookstore’s textbook rental program.

“The fact that the University of Toronto Bookstore is offering textbook rentals could affect textbooks sales here, but what will determine that is primarily whether or not the professors order through the us or them,” said Moreno, who took over the store at the end of July and is currently in the crunch of textbook orders.

“I’ve only had good feedback from the professors and many of them say it has always been important to them to support the Women’s Bookstore as an independent and they intend to continue doing so,” she said.

Moreno has been receiving textbook orders consistently over the past few weeks and expects the support to continue despite the discounts the U of T Bookstore is offering students.

Michele Nikolov, who will be beginning her first year in psychology at UTM in September, is looking forward to the savings and is definitely planning to rent her textbooks from the U of T Bookstore.

“This way, what I save on textbooks I can put towards the trip I take to get away from them,” she said.

Nikolov gives U of T kudos for listening to and recognizing the needs of students.

“I’m glad U of T is looking out for the students,” said Nikolov. “The economy is still rough and it’s nice to know that the university I’m going to be attending is on my side, trying to save me money where possible.”

Textbooks in all subjects will be available for students at all campuses. To confirm availability of a certain textbook and to rent, students are advised to visit the U of T Bookstore website at uoftbookstore.com

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