Expanded buying options drive price comparisons
Online alternatives open class materials market
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 23:08
Whether combing shelves for ISBN numbers or opting for online shopping carts, purchasing textbooks will inevitably be on the mind of new and returning students as they prepare for the fall semester.
Students will consider factors such as pricing, arrival time, purchasing venue and sell back rates when purchasing or renting textbooks.
Blaine Balliett, a junior agricultural leadership and development major, said most students begin their search for textbooks at the Barnes and Noble campus bookstore, buying the books directly from the list the bookstore provides, or instead, choosing to make their own price comparisons.
“Everything is right here where you need it,” said Wyatt Whaley, a freshman mechanical engineering major who plans to buy all his books from the campus bookstore this semester.
Balliett said campus bookstore prices might be higher than other textbook sellers, but students can be assured the campus bookstore will provide them with the “security” of having the right materials.
“There’s been classes where I’ve gone and the guy next to me has asked to see my book, because his doesn’t look the same,” Balliett said. “They ended up getting the wrong version of the textbook.”
Students may encounter many inconveniences when purchasing textbooks — beyond expensive prices or incorrect textbook versions, all-inclusive textbook packages can be taxing on students and their bank accounts.
“Often I’ve bought packages from the bookstore and had to return the items I didn’t actually need,” Daniela Cabrera, a junior biology major, said.
To alleviate time constraints, some students prefer to purchase or rent textbooks from online retailers.
“Online sources tend to be more flexible and give you a longer time span to return the book,” Cabrera said.
To assist with student’s budgeting needs, evolving websites like BigWords.com act as middlemen to determine total cost of one’s purchase from popular sellers such as Amazon.com or Half.com through “bulk item price optimization.” Students are able to take advantage of the most cost effective deals presented.
“Normally, out of price comparison sites, you are looking for one book at a time and raided with a hundred prices for that book,” said Jeff Sherwood, founder and CEO of BigWords.com. “That doesn’t take into account promotions and shipping, and things that can decrease the cost of your items as you buy more and more from a given vendor.”
Sherwood said the BigWords.com site is unique in that it utilizes merchants who “specialize in textbooks,” and calculates future sellback rates.
Gaining in popularity each year, some students choose to employ Facebook groups as another outlet for selling and buying used books.
Both Balliett and Cabrera said they have friends who find Facebook beneficial because the selling process is peer-to-peer with opportunities for negotiation. Cabrera said fellow students understand “the pain of buying books and how much of a hassle it is.”
Cabrera said off-campus textbook sellers were also “great options,” because of lower rates and the in-person customer service not provided by the online sources.
Balliett said much of the textbook buying process is improved through student initiative. He advised his peers to avoid procrastinating the search for textbooks and to monitor updates to the book list.
“I feel like you have to start looking where the good deals might be as soon as you get your schedule,” Balliett said.