Until recently, students have been forced to pay outrageous prices for their textbooks and have had no other choice than to purchase them at their campus bookstores. However, the common complaint that “textbooks are too expensive!” may heard less once students discover websites that could help them save money on textbooks.
In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported that college textbook prices have increased more than twice the rate of inflation, at an average of 6 percent per year since 1986.
While students at State Universities are accustomed to keeping their textbooks after their semester is over because the buy-back rate is sometimes over 75 percent less than what they originally paid, students at Woodland and Yuba Community Colleges are more fortunate.
“Universities are pickier about their returns,” stated Pedro Medina, a UC Davis student who formerly attended Woodland Community College. “They won’t accept a book with dog-eared pages, too many high-lighted chapters, or whatever they deem to be ‘water damage,’ whereas the student bookstore on Woodland’s campus will accept most book returns at the end of the semester, and students are given a more reasonable payback price.”
Many instructors at Woodland and Yuba Community Colleges have complained that there is sometimes no need to change the edition of the required text. Yet, every semester a new edition of the Norton Anthology is issued. This problem originates with the book publishers, not the campus bookstore.
One Distributive Education instructor, who was so frustrated with the differences from edition to edition, stated that he would almost rather not use the book at all, or simply stick to the same edition for semesters to come.
Now, students can visit websites that will enable them to share textbooks like they do music and mp3 files.
Forget Napster and iTunes! The new trend on campuses will be trading textbooks over the internet on websites like SwitchTextbooks.com.
In an article last year for Auburn University’s student newspaper, Patrick Nagle, one of the founders of SwitchTextbooks, talked about the website that includes interacting with publishing companies as, “a multi-peer trading platform with A trading with B, B trading with C and C trading with A through a balancing point system.”
Since the GAO reported in 2005 that students spend an average of $900 a year on their textbooks, this website may come as a relief to many students who are practically signing their paychecks over to their college’s bookstores.
Nagle later stated, “The biggest thing, though, is what the college students are going to get out of it. They are going to be saving approximately $362 a semester.”
Although SwitchTextbooks is free to view, in order to receive a textbook, students must agree to pay an annual membership fee of $19.95. Unlike websites which require users to pay for using the website, SwitchTextbooks doesn’t require users to pay until after they have received their first textbook.
Other websites of interest include eBay’s website Half.com. Like eBay, Half.com is free to use and allows anyone with an account to purchase textbooks from other members. After clicking the link to the Textbook Superstore, people who have an existing eBay account may use their eBay username and password to hunt down and buy their textbook for a fraction of the prices found in student bookstores.
Most websites will ask for the ISBN number. Half.com’s website explains, “Each textbook contains the ISBN (a 10-digit number) printed above the bar code on the textbook back cover or on the title page. Often your class syllabus will contain the ISBN along with textbook title, author and edition information.”
Students looking to cut the time it takes to hunt down that particular textbook over the internet may also check out CheapestTextbooks.com. This free site asks the user to enter the title, author, keyword or the ISBN, and lists the matching entries. After finding the right book and clicking on the “Find the Cheapest Price” box, the user can view a price comparison list of that textbook on several discount websites, including Overstock, Amazon and Half.com.
More traditional students may choose to stick with the campus bookstore but experiment with purchasing their books over the internet by visiting Woodland and Yuba Community College’s link to the campus’s bookstore under Programs and Services.
From that point students must choose what type of book they are looking for: textbooks, e-Books, or medical and general books. After selecting the campus, location, department, course title and section of the course, students will be able to view the required textbooks, and see how much they cost, both new and used.
If satisfied, the student may then purchase the books and choose whether they’d like it shipped to them or if they would prefer to pick it up the next time they visit their campus bookstore.
Although patience is said to be a virtue, it is no longer needed for waiting in long lines. Luring more users with innovative websites, the internet is booming. As a result, students are able to profit from a larger selection of search engines, research tools, bibliographic and MLA formatting, and now a faster, cheaper, simpler way to buy books.