By Moa Golster
As the spring semester begins, many students are required to take a trip to the campus bookstore for new textbooks. However, that trip to the bookstore might end up feeling more like a robbery, rather than a fresh start to the semester. As the prices of textbooks in the campus bookstore can be far from budget-friendly, students are finding other ways to get a less expensive deal.
“I’m not buying any textbooks this semester,” Johan Rundquist, a junior Business Economics major, said resolutely. He is tired of buying expensive textbooks that he rarely ends up using. Last semester, only one of the six textbooks he bought in the campus bookstore turned out to be useful for his classes. It is the lack of actual use of the textbooks, rather than the price, that Rundquist reacts to. “If I knew that a specific textbook would be crucial in order to get through a class, I wouldn’t mind paying $100 for it,” he said. “I would probably buy it in the campus bookstore. I’m simply too lazy to search for lower prices somewhere else,” he added.
A visit to the campus bookstore reveals, however, that a student can be charged far more than $100 for a textbook. “The most expensive ones are about $400,” said Derek McMaster, assistant store manager at the Campus Bookstore.
The bookstore was surprisingly peaceful during common hour on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the first day of classes. There weren’t any frustrating lines and stressed cashiers, only cheerful staff that was happy to help. The relatively small number of visitors could have had something to do with the heavy snowstorm that inevitably shut the campus down on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
As many students think that the campus bookstore textbooks are overpriced, countless numbers of less expensive options are to be found with just a Google search. Websites such as Amazon.com and Valorebooks.com, where textbooks can be less expensive, could be another option.
An online bookstore is a great alternative, according to Eddie Richter, a sophomore Business Marketing major, if students want to save money. However, his Amazon.com delivery last semester was not at all what he expected. “For some reason it took about 20 days to get the books delivered, so let’s just say I wasn’t too popular with my professors the first weeks of classes,” he added.
Like the campus bookstore, many online bookstores sell both new and used textbooks. Some of them also provide a rental service, and encourage students to sell them back their used textbooks.
McMaster has seen a difference in the sales since Internet booksellers gave students other options. He would not discourage students from going on the Internet to buy textbooks, but claims that buying via the bookstore is safer. “Sometimes there are circumstances that call for a sudden refund or change of a book. For example, if a professor is switched after the class has started, then the student might need another book or edition. Here, students can have a full refund during the add/drop period of the semester,” he said.
In addition, McMaster stated that a student could sell a textbook back to the bookstore after using it, and get up to 50 percent of the money back.
It’s difficuly to discern whether that is a hollow promise or not. Some students say they have never been able to sell a textbook back to the bookstore. “I have been told the book is out-of-date, or that they don’t need it. I guess it’s a way for the bookstore to get expensive books sold in the first place,” said a student who preferred to remain anonymous.
As professors are aware of the rising prices of textbooks, some decide to make them non-compulsory for certain classes. Some put a copy of the textbook on reserve at the library so the students can read it there if they are unable to buy it. “It seems like the textbook requirement is a mandatory part of a syllabus,” said Carl Lystad, a junior Business Finance major. “But in some of my classes, the professors tell us that we don’t have to buy them, although it is required in the syllabus.”
Some students do not face the expensive textbook prices by searching for cheaper ones—they simply do not buy the books. “I have learned that if a professor doesn’t mention the textbook as crucial on the first day of classes, it probably isn’t,” Lystad said, before walking away to his first class of the new semester.