If the sticker-shock that has, is, and will be hitting students and parents in their university bookstores across the country hasn’t hit you yet-beware, it is coming. Students, used to getting books for free, and parents, used to getting them for the price of admission, cannot comprehend the two-, three-, four-, even five-hundred dollar bill they must pay just to have the necessary study and work materials for the impending 15 week semester.At West Chester University, students have many more options than they think. SSI Bookstore in Sykes Student Union and Dynamic Bookstore on Linden Street, the two bookstores that service the university, both offer competitive pricing on new and used textbooks. However, the online market for books is much larger and thus, much more competitive.
The Quad secret shopped SSI Bookstore and Dynamic Bookstore on August 15 and compared prices for new and used books required for five general education classes: HIS102, PSY100, MAT101, SPA101 and SPK208. While prices at both the brick-and-mortar bookstores and online bookstores are not finalized or guaranteed, our study shows a large variation in textbook prices. SSI and Dynamic each charged the most for two books, Amazon.com charged the most for one.
Online bookstores like Amazon.com, Half.com, Buy.com, Textbooks.com, eCampus, Alibris, and Overstock charge less than anyone for used books. The full report is shown on the front page, with the highest prices in red, the lowest in blue. “Other online” represents the online bookstore with the lowest price, other than Amazon.com, which is listed separately.
The Web site we used to compare prices is called CheapestTextBooks.com. On cheapesttextbooks.com, students can search by title, author, keyword, or ISBN for the textbook they need. The site provides a list of online bookstores that currently have the book in stock. The site also provides other useful information such as whether or not the price quoted is for a new or used book (they list both), the cost of shipping (often free), and whether or not the buyer may be eligible for a discount or online coupon. Each listing has a link that opens a pop-up window with the site that is selling the book.
Freeload Press, at www.freeloadpress.com, offers free downloadable textbooks. The textbooks have advertisements scattered through them. While the book selection currently lingers around 30, they expect to have thousands within the next two years.
Students should be cautious when purchasing textbooks online. Often, as in the case of Half.com, you are not buying from a company, but rather an individual. There are no guarantees online and returns can be a hassle. Experienced online shoppers should be able to weigh the general risk of the purchase against the monetary savings it will mean for them.
By shopping around effectively and making intelligent decisions, students can make an impact on the price of textbooks. For more information visit the SSI bookstore at www.click2ssi-bookstore.com, Dynamic bookstore at www.dynamicbookstore.com, or any of the sites mentioned above.