tips and tricks: USU upperclassmen give advice on shopping
(and not spending $900)
TIPS ON BOOK
BUCKS: Cami Clarke, above, couldn't find one
book elsewhere so she bought it at the bookstore. /
Photo illustration by Brooke Barker
By Brooke Barker
September 11, 2006 | It's the beginning of the
school year, and that means one thing for most
college students: money. Money buys housing; money
buys books, which in turn further education to
one day help students find careers.
Each year, the average American college student
spends about $900 on textbooks, according to a
2005 report by the Government Accountability Office.
This small fortune is often paid by students heading
into the campus bookstore with their class schedule
and no idea of what exactly they're looking for.
Following the clearly labeled aisles to find required
materials may be easy, but with a little effort
some upperclassmen have been known to save a bundle
"I have never settled with the bookstore
price; there's always a better deal out there,"
said Nick Lambert, a senior majoring in physics.
"Most people go to the bookstore simply because
they're in a crunch and didn't get their books
Facts about textbooks
• A college store makes about four cents
for every dollar's worth of new textbooks
sold, after paying for expenses.
• According to a study by the Government
Accountability Office (GAO), Textbooks prices
are rising twice as fast as the annual rate of
inflation, but still not as much as tuition and
other higher education expenses.
• Even with all of the emphasis on shopping
online, students only reported buying 23 percent
of their textbooks online, according to a fall
2005 Student Watch report. About one third of
the textbooks bought online are through a college
• There are lower prices on college textbooks
from foreign distributors because some U.S. publishers
choose to sell their books to retailers abroad
at reduced prices in comparison to U.S. college
bookstores- and most of these foreign distributors
are able to sell their books online at a discounted
price, putting them in competition with college
bookstores across the nation.
• 76 percent of students agree that used
course materials are as valuable as new ones,
according to a fall 2003 Student Watch report.
• Used books made up $1.9 billion in college
store sales during the 2004-2005 school year-
about 18% of U.S. campus bookstore sales.
• Used textbooks are normally 75% of the
price of a new book. Prices on used books range
from $10 to $80, with the average price being
$40.01 according to National Association of College
Store's 2005 Industry Financial Report.
Facts gathered from the National Association
of College Store's Web site: http://nacs.org.
Lambert said he starts looking for books about a month
before the semester begins, and usually saves $10 to
$30 on each required book by shopping on the Internet.
"I usually get online and see what books I'll need,
and then I compare sites on a spreadsheet to find the
best deals," said Lambert. "There are a few
sites I always hit."
Lambert often uses search engines such as Google to
look directly for a particular book. This normally leads
him to a few obscure sites as well as a few well known
ones such as half.com, amazon.com and collegebooksdirect.com.
"You have to make sure it's a secure site if you're
shopping on a lesser known source," he said. "Do
your research. Check out the reviews of other customers."
Lambert says he's never had a problem getting his books
in time for class, and always most of the time his books
arrive ahead of schedule.
A Web site exclusively for USU students is the Online
Book Exchange. It allows students to sell their
books at a chosen price to other classmates. Students
list the title, edition, contact information and asking
price on the site- making it simple for searching classmates
to find a match.
Most people who use the Book Exchange are able to buy
or sell their books at a better deal than at the bookstore.
The site also connects those sharing majors, which can
be helpful when it comes to knowing the secret to surviving
that dreaded first test.
If buying books online sounds a little distressing or
scary, there are several shops around town that focus
on saving students money on textbooks. Jared Nye, a
sophomore majoring in nursing saved $70 on two books
by shopping at Aggie Books this fall.
Alternative bookstores in Logan such as Aggie Books
and Beat the Bookstore promise to beat the bookstore
prices on textbooks they have in stock. While the stores
only carry high-demand books -- this may be a perfect
solution for students still working on their generals,
or an idea for when it comes time to sell books at the
end of the semester.
"When I take the time to shop around, I can normally
save between $50 and $100 on books," said Stacy
Washburn. Washburn, a senior in early childhood education,
was required to buy most of her books at the USU bookstore
this semester because of the availability of her course
materials, but wishes she could have saved money by
Washburn said that she usually sells her books to friends
in her major- which helps her make a little money, and
her classmates get a good deal on books. Cami Clarke,
a junior majoring in social work, ended up having to
buy a philosophy book from the university bookstore
this semester, after spending an afternoon driving around
town looking for a better deal.
"They (the other bookstores in Cache Valley) told
me that philosophy students tend to keep their books,
and so they don't normally carry them," said Clarke.
She was able to get a good deal on another book, however,
by sharing with classmates.
"The teacher said we only needed one book per group,
and so we were able to divide it between five of us,"
said Clarke. Lambert recommends only buying a book from
the bookstore if you're not sure if you'll stay in the