Textbook buying is a task every student has to tackle, and one many have managed to maneuver for the benefit of their bank accounts. Some book-buying strategies are more cost effective than others, and students try to find best deals they can, including here on campus.
There are a variety of options for buying textbooks. The campus bookstore and student-to-student exchanges can occur on campus, while online vendors ship books across the country, or sometimes around the world. These include direct sellers like Amazon.com and TextbookStop.com. In addition to offering its own prices, Amazon.com offers vendors that sell at their own prices, as does Half.com (run by eBay). There is also the option for 60-day to semester-long rentals from Web sites like Textbooksrus.com. Some Web sites aim to help students decide on the best, safest deal by comparing multiple vendors for the best prices, such as directtextbook.com, allbookstores.com and dealoz.com.
With the abundance of private sellers and search engines to peel through, committed students have formed strategies for finding the best prices.
Kelsy DesLauriers, a junior, said book buying can be frustrating.
DesLauriers saved $200 last semester with savvy purchases. When she is buying books, DesLauriers turns to Amazon, searching the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of required books to find the listed prices and comparing her prices to those at the bookstore.
“I rarely find books cheaper at the bookstore,” DesLauriers said.
DesLauriers said she uses Amazon because they offer efficient payment options and protect customers with a 14-day wait period before processing transactions with independent sellers.
Students should give themselves two to three weeks to research book prices before classes start to make sure they have time to find good prices, DesLauriers said.
“Especially if you shop with top-rated sellers, they’ll get [books] to you within the week,” she said.
Shopping online has not been without its disappointments, DesLauriers said. Honest mistakes while ordering have caused glitches in her process, she said.
“I’ve had a couple times that I’ve gotten the wrong book,” DesLauriers said.
Amazon made up for the mistake, however, by allowing a return and compensating for shipping costs. To curb these frustrations, DesLauriers now checks the cover of the required book in the bookstore with the photo of the book on Amazon to make sure her order matches her professors’ requirements.Emily Swedberg, a junior, is the administrator of the Cobber Book Exchange, a group on Facebook for Concordia students to list books for sale or find other students’ books to buy.
Swedberg dropped a calculus class early in her freshman year. Not able to sell her book back to Concordia’s bookstore, she talked to her professor about how to sell her book. Her professor suggested putting up posters around campus.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is a really ineffective way to sell a book,’” Swedberg said.
Swedberg started the Cobber Book Exchange as a way for students to sell their books to other students, she said, and helping students save money in a convenient way was her main reason for creating the book exchange.
She has not purchased textbooks from the bookstore since her first year at Concordia and uses prices to decide what to buy.
“Whatever’s the cheapest, basically,” Swedberg said.
Over her years at Concordia, Swedberg said she has saved a few hundred dollars on text books, either through the book exchange or other online resources, usually expecting her purchases to be 30 to 50 percent less than the bookstore price.
When a book she needs is not listed on the Cobber Book Exchange, Swedberg turns to dealoz.com for her shopping. This means purchasing a book from an independent seller, who could be located anywhere in the country or the world, she said, and having the textbooks shipped to her. Swedberg has had only positive, honest transactions when buying online so far, she said.
Matchio.com, a non-profit, online community that provides student-to-student book searches has recently contacted Swedberg about offering their service to Concordia students. Matchio provides searches of available textbooks within a campus community and can alert students who have posted books to sell by text message when a potential buyer is available.
Tatenda Furusa, the coordinator of Matchio, said in an E-mail interview that the Web site was started as a means to help college students save and earn more money on textbooks.
“We were tired of being of ripped off by the bookstore and also trading using eBay or Amazon,” he said.
Research and development of Matchio started in November 2009, and the Web site was launched fully on April 23 at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.
Students on the Bradley campus wanted to buy and sell with each other, Furusa said, so Matchio was created as a local, community-based marketplace. Matchio allows a student to quickly and simply trade with someone they trust in their own community, which has made it a popular choice at Bradley, he said.
The Cobber Book Exchange is one example of over 200 Facebook groups around the world that students have created to be able to buy and sell locally, he said. Furusa said the low buyback prices and high prices of books at the campus bookstore make the book-buying process bothersome.
“[Students] simply want to save money,” he said.
Bradley is currently the only college using Matchio, and they are looking to expand, Furusa said. Most responses to the early trials of Matchio at Bradley have been positive, and complaints about the Web site have to do with supply meeting demand needs, so Furusa encourages students to post and buy as much as they can on their college’s Matchio page, he said.
Swedberg said Matchio’s services charge no fee to students or to the college.
If Matchio were to open their services to Concordia, the Cobber-to-Cobber exchange would be alive through a different venue, Swedberg said.
The benefits of using a service like Matchio.com to consolidate searches is the speed and convenience it offers, Swedberg said.
“It’ll tell you your matches right away rather than [the student] looking through books that are available [on the Cobber Book Exchange],” Swedberg said.
DesLauriers said her book-buying technique has improved over her time at Concordia, and she has gotten better at avoiding unnecessary spending.
She also uses the Cobber Book Exchange, and said students should be aware of it as an option. DesLauriers said the book exchange is sometimes limited, but always worth a search through. Better prices can usually be found on Amazon, she said, but the Cobber Book Exchange has its advantages.
“You know what you’re getting and you also know you’re helping a Cobber out,” DesLauriers said.
Julie Guggemos is a senior at Concordia studying English Writing. In addition to her position as PULSE Editor at the Concordian, she is also an intern at the High Plains Reader, a publication out of Fargo, ND, and a tutor at Concordia’s Writing Center. After graduation Julie plans to attend a publishing program and look for work in the publishing industry.