Bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. is launching a textbook rental program for college students, making it the newest entrant in a growing field.
The new program, available though campus bookstores or the stores' Web sites began as a pilot program in three of its 636 campus bookstores in the fall. It has now been expanded to 25 bookstores.
Some college bookstores that will offer the program include Ohio State University, The University of Maryland, Borough of Manhattan Community College and University of South Carolina.
Barnes & Noble said books will rent for 42.5 percent of their original price, so a $100 book would cost $42.50 to rent for the entire term. Textbooks can be rented at books stores or online -- with orders shipped to a campus bookstore.
College students spend about $667 per year on required course materials, according to the National Association of College Stores.
The effort is operated through the New York company's subsidiary Barnes & Noble College Booksellers LLC. Barnes & Noble bought the Barnes & Noble College Booksellers unit back from its chairman last year in a deal worth $596 million.
College textbook rental programs have been around for decades but have recently begun to generate more interest, in part because Congress last year set aside $10 million to provide grants for college bookstores to start rental programs, said Kathy Mickey, senior analyst and managing editor of the Education Group at Simba Information.
Follett Higher Education Group, one of the biggest college bookstore operators, also started a textbook rental program in the fall and said this month it is expanding it to about 22 campuses.
Online sites such as Chegg.com and academic publishers such as Cengage Learning also started rental programs last year.
"There has been heightened interest in textbook rental programs," said Mickey. Through 2008, about 2 percent of college bookstores offered such programs, but "that's picking up," she said.
The market can be tricky, Mickey added, because professors must use the same books for several semesters in order for book-rental companies to make money on the programs.
"There clearly is new interest in textbook rental programs, but are they going to click any more than they have over the last many decades, who knows?" Mickey said.
Barnes & Noble shares fell 53 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $17.77 during midday trading. The stock has traded between $23.97 and $45.55 over the past year.
Associated Press Writer Ashley Heher contributed to this report.