With Rentmytext.in, students can hire textbooks for each semester instead of buying them.

How many times have you begged your classmate for an elusive textbook so you could photocopy the pages needed for your thermodynamics class? Or combed through second-hand bookshops trying to find the best deal on books by foreign authors for a fluid mechanics exam?

Those days may be behind you as online portals for renting textbooks are springing up all over the Internet. Leading the pack is Rentmytext.in, started by Bangalore-based entrepreneur Vishesh Jayawanth. As India's first online textbook rental service, it gives students the opportunity to rent textbooks for each semester instead of buying them.

“The advantage is that 70 per cent of the cash is refunded when they return the textbooks at the end of a semester,” says Jayawanth. The 24-year-old, who spent one-and-a-half years researching the market launched the website in September 2012. “The idea was to make education affordable and accessible,” he says.

The concept is simple: students can log on to Rentmyext.in and choose the books they want. “Students can select any of the packages according to the syllabus, or choose the individual books they want. You pay for what you choose, and are refunded part of the cash, irrespective of what you choose to do,” says Jayawanth. The books are delivered at your doorstep and you can return them by post once the semester is complete.

Lokesh Anand, a mechanical engineering student in a Bangalore college, says, “When it comes to textbooks, the first problem is sourcing them. The next is being able to afford them, especially the ones by foreign authors. Some colleges recommend only Indian authors and these are available in their libraries. Even then students are forced to photocopy the books as they cannot have them for more than two or three weeks at a time. This is quite expensive.”

Cutting corners

Having heard of Rentmytext.in, he checked it out. “While the packages are good, I only selected the books I wanted. Being able to save money is a big relief,” he says. Anand is just one of over 500 customers in Karnataka, where the online portal worked as a pilot project. “We have a presence in over 42 colleges across the state. Students in tier-two and tier-three cities have more to benefit from our portal,” says Jayawanth.

As many other websites such as textbuk.in and kopykitab.com have come up and offer the same service, how will Rentmytext.in stand out? Jayawanth says, “A value addition that we give is the book dock. The reasoning behind this is that many hostel students don’t find space to store their books.” Basically, it is a small bookshelf, and is offered to all customers free of cost. They also offer a free downloadable question bank on their website. “Being first off the block also helps. We have established a customer base, and we hope to keep them coming back to us,” he says.

As for future plans, Jayawanth plans to go national. “We are planning to launch in Tamil Nadu next; we have already studied the market here. As there are many engineering colleges here, a majority of students might find it difficult to afford expensive books,” he says.

Downloadable e-books and e-textbooks too are on the cards. “It’s not just about saving money, we also want to save the environment,” says Jayawanth.