SCHOOLS will be told how to set up book rental schemes that could save parents up to 80pc of the cost.
The new guidelines could reduce the annual school books bill for hard-pressed families by hundreds of euro every year.
The cost of school books varies depending on what stage a child is at, running from about €60 for an infant class pupil up to €150 in sixth class.
At second-level, the costs are much higher and usually most expensive for first year at €350, and fifth year at about €500.
Now Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants more schools to introduce rental schemes and has issued guidelines to help them.
A special parents' guide is also being published, to inform them of how the schemes operate, and how they can help schools establish and run them.
The moves to curb the cost of schoolbooks have also seen the Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) commit to limiting the publication of new editions and to maintain editions of books in print unchanged for at least six years.
The publishers have also given assurances that they would sell books for rental schemes to schools at substantial discounts.
Already, 76pc of primary schools operate a book rental scheme, but the picture is not as clear-cut at second-level, a Department of Education survey found last year.
Only 44pc of post-primary schools responded to the survey.
The findings suggested rental schemes were more popular in vocational, community and comprehensive schools than the secondary schools, traditionally run by religious orders.