While his biochemistry classmates groan about the high prices of their required books, Nam Pho can smile knowing he saved more than $120 by buying his textbooks online. The University of Maryland freshman biochemistry major began searching online bookstores two weeks ago
to find alternatives to the prices listed by the University Book Center. He searched eBay and Barnes & Noble’s Web sites and finally found what he
was looking for. “I just got brand new books at the used book price — including shipping and handling,” Pho said. He found his $130 biology
book for about $50 and saved more than $30 on his chemistry book.According to a survey released by www.Survey.com and commissioned
by eBay, more than 60 percent of students spend between $300 and $600 a semester on textbooks. These high prices are sending students scrambling for alternatives. The survey, released in June, found that Pho is not the only one using the Internet to find cheaper books — nearly half of college students have turned to buying books online. With one book sold every 38 seconds on eBay, Internet sites are fast becoming a viable alternative for money-consciousstudents. Even with the inconveniences of shipping and no-return policies, students are drawn to these sites because of their low prices and high availability.
Bookholders.com is also a popular Web site for students in search of cheaper books. Former student John Verde opened the store with his brother four years ago after becoming fed up with the high price of books. Instead of selling their books back to the UM Book Center or the University Book Exchange, students can sell their used books at Bookholders for immediate cash, or receive a check when their books are purchased.
“Every semester, we double in sales and the amount of books we get in,” said Joseph Verde, co-owner of Bookholders, who predicts skyrocketing book prices will cause a revolution in the market. Book Exchange general manager Ted Ankeney said he has noticed a change in the amount of book purchases in past five to ten years, but he does not attribute these changes to Internet sites.
“I say it’s more from students just not buying books as opposed to other sources,” Ankeney said, “I hear that comment and so do my employees
— ‘I can’t buy it!'” The same www.Survey.com study found results similar to Ankeney’s — 43 percent of those questioned avoided buying a required book because of its high price.
“I went as far as photocopying a lab book because it was so expensive,
and split the cost,” said junior biology major David Nguyen.
While many may opt to do without a book, others have resorted to using outdated or international editions of their books. Verde said students who buy outdated editions of books from his store feel they can get by in
the class with the old book, as well as save money. One of the biggest differences between international editions and the recommended editions is that international editions are paperback while the
recommended ones are hardcover, but the content is basically
the same, he said. Often, these books can be easily found
on British book sites like www.amazon.com.uk.
However, some professors warn against content differences. “I teach international politics and old textbooks don’t cover changes in world politics,” said government and politics professor Virginia Ann Haufler.
She added that she often assigns articles that can be accessed
online free of charge in order to save students money and keep them up to date on the issues.
Stan Lohman, general manager of the Book Center, refused to comment on the financial status of the store. However, he did recognize a problem with the price of the costly textbooks. “We are getting more used
books than ever before due to our efforts to get early book information
from the professors,” he said.