Dalhousie University in Halifax is offering a new way for students to get their hands on textbooks: renting.
Tina Shannon, the manager of the Dalhousie Bookstore, said the program was quietly launched in January and is ramping up this fall.
"I'm really excited. I think it's fantastic to be able to offer choice," she told CBC News.
"We're certainly still selling new books, we're selling used books, but now to be able to offer rental just means people can make a decision for themselves."
Shannon said there are approximately 1,100 books currently offered in the Dalhousie Bookstore and approximately 730 of those titles are available on a rental basis.
The service, which is a partnership between the university and textbookrental.ca, is offered online through the Dalhousie Bookstore website and allows students to avoid lineups and save a little money.
When a book is rented, textbookrental.ca ships it to the renter. At the end of the rental term — the options are for one semester, three months or 60 days — the renter sends the book back to textbookrental.ca using a pre-paid shipping slip that is provided by the company.
Renters are responsible for keeping the book in good condition.
"We'll know heading through September what kind of uptake we have and how that compares to other options," said Shannon.
"All you need is your course number. You don't need the title, the author, the ISBN. You just need your course number and all the options we offer that book available in, will populate for you. So if we have it as new and used and rental, all three of those options will appear for you."
The price of the rental depends on the textbook.
Shannon said on average, the price of a used textbook is about 75 per cent of a new one. Renting a textbook costs about 60 per cent the price of a new book.
"We also do a buyback so if you're buying a used book and you're buying it at 75 per cent and there is the opportunity to sell that back for 50 per cent, you're effectively paying 25 per cent so that's certainly another low-cost alternative," said Shannon.
"But there just is no guarantee that we'll be buying that book back."
Shannon said she doesn't anticipate a problem with the rental company's supply of books because textbookrental.ca has a number of suppliers in Canada and the U.S. and supply has not been an issue.