Innovation That Matters

Textbook rental for college students

Publishing & Media is yet another example of a web start-up leaping into a nightmarish logistics problem to make life easier for its customers. The US venture has amassed a multi-million-volume library of new or near-new textbooks, which it rents out to students at college campuses throughout the country. Rental periods range from one to four months, and the savings for students can reach 75 percent of a book’s retail price. Adopting the increasingly popular ‘Netflix model’, BookRenter offers students convenient delivery options and lets them return books by UPS at no charge. Rental terms can be extended as needed, and students can also decide to buy a book if they’d like to keep it. Of course, BookRenter must compete with established campus retailers, as well as new ventures that are offering free textbooks sponsored by advertisers (see’s free love briefing for more on that). Even so, BookRenter appeals to consumers who are happy to rent instead of own, choosing flexibility and savings over ownership. As the company grows, it could also easily add downloadable or online texts to its offerings, and could incorporate web 2.0 features to keep students engaged throughout the academic year. Students might be encouraged to upload their notes about particular titles, for instance, and include comments about their classes. We’ve featured new-style rental services for everything from baby clothes to sports cars. Opportunity? Spot the industry or product that other entrepreneurs have overlooked! Spotted by: Francine Kizner



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