The beginning of the academic semester is filled with a variety of stresses that each student must endure, like organizing class schedules, making sure financial aid is in order and determining where to buy textbooks.
For professors, the purchasing of the courses’ required textbook or textbooks is essential in knowing and understanding the material, but most importantly ,passing the class.
Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication Brandon Nutting studies the importance of students having supplemental ways to access information, including textbooks.
“Coming from somebody that studies memory, the more paths to memory, the better: teaching, lecturing and reading,” said Nutting. “I am one of those professors that actually believes in having a required textbook, and actually reading it.”
As tuition rates increase, so does the cost of required textbooks. Economic constraints have some students looking elsewhere to find the greatest deals.
In a poll of 25 students conducted by The Volante, it found 75 percent of the students would rather use alternative websites to buy their textbooks and saved an average of $130 a semester total on textbooks than those who used the university bookstore.
To match this growing demand, alternative textbook sites like Chegg, Half.com, AbeBooks and BookRenter have been on the rise. These sites have given students options to rent, buy or own textbooks at considerably discounted prices.
“The bookstore asked for almost a total of $200 more over the last two semesters on books that I purchased online, so by going to Chegg, I was able to save some money,” said Katie Redden, a first-year business major.
Before the opportunity to substantially utilize the services of alternative websites, students would receive their required textbook list a week or two in advance of the first day of classes. To avoid hassles, students would then head to the bookstore to purchase their books.
With the passage of the High Education Opportunity Act in 2008, colleges receiving federal financial assistance are now required to provide students with a list of all the required textbooks when registering for classes. This includes the International Standard Book Number, a unique 13-digit code located on or within each individual textbook.
Although the university provides pricing for renting and buying trade books through the Barnes & Noble University bookstore online, students can get the books ISBN and insert it into websites to compare the cost of textbooks from tens if not hundreds of websites that offer it at a discounted price.
“Using those numbers on those websites helps me compare the best prices available, and helps me decide if [the textbook is worth renting or buying,” Redden said.
When it comes to buying the actual textbook versus renting it, Redden recommends students look at the price.
“If you really want to save money, I would recommend looking at the price of the book, and if you can rent it for less than what you could get back for buying it, rent,” Redden said.
According to Angela Miller, the USD Bookstore store manager, the campus bookstore services a large portion of the student population.
“I don’t know for sure, but it’s a pretty large percentage,” she said.
When students decide where to purchase their textbooks they may question the reasoning for pricing differences. However, the pricing of the textbooks from the university bookstore is neither determined by the university bookstore or Barnes and Noble, which is a common misconception.
“Neither. The textbook prices are set by the publisher, so whether that’s the new book or a digital version, it is set by the publisher,” Miller said.
Although some students are aware of their ability to use other markets to purchase their course materials, some do not mind paying more at Barnes and Noble and would rather utilize the services of the bookstore.
“I usually wait until the second week of school to purchase my books,” said Kyle Finken, a junior health services major. “Having to hassle with going through the Internet, trying to find the best deals and then dealing with shipping is not worth the time. I’d rather just order them and then go pick them up from the bookstore.”
Another first-year student, Logan Whitead said he would rather use the services of the bookstore to avoid confusion and delays.
“I feel it’s easier than going online and looking for the right book. I can go to class and see what books I need and then go get them from the bookstore,” said Whitead. “Then I don’t have to wait forever for the books and deal with the problem of a wrong order.”
Because the students are the ones paying for the textbooks, some professors are also conscious of the prices textbooks cost to their students.
“At Texas Tech it was always the parents pay for them, so don’t worry about it, but here I get the feeling that more people are spending their own money to buy textbooks,” said Nutting. “So I definitely wouldn’t pick the most expensive textbook because it’s better for me.”