Editorial: Textbook purchasing opportunities lead to confusion

Buying and selling textbooks is an age-old dilemma that every college student faces multiple times in his or her academic career. When we were first-years, some of us were neither intelligent nor motivated enough to research alternate options for textbooks. Therefore, when we bought our textbooks, we bought them straight from the bookstore. Things have clearly changed.

It is quite clear that it is becoming nearly impossible for any one business to have a monopoly over the textbook industry. Yes, Borders has been liquidated and Barnes & Noble is one of the only free-standing bookstore chains still in existence. But that does not mean students are forced to rely solely on them for their academic literature. Economic times are tough, and students are willing to do literally anything to save a buck on books. Consequently, book-selling companies are willing to do literally anything to get the business of eager students.

It’s clear that purchasing books from online companies is much cheaper than purchasing from the bookstore on campus. However, is renting books, be it from the University bookstore or an online organization, more beneficial than purchasing them and reselling? Yes, renting a textbook from the bookstore can give a student up to 50 percent off of the retail price. But when you return the book, and let’s assume you are returning it on time (therefore no late charges) you are making no profit. You lost money renting that book. When students buy books from an online retailer at an already discounted price, and then resell them at close to the same price, it is already a significant profit gain. If a student is savvy and determined, he or she can make a profit. However, most University students don’t spend hours around their computer negotiating prices on textbooks when they could be doing other things. What’s more important, if a student is taking an obscure anthropology class on the basics of consumption and material culture, who else in the world would be willing to buy back his or her book at an elevated price? How can that student make a profit?

The choice students make comes down to convenience. How much time are students willing to put into their book hunting? The cheapest and easiest way to get our books is off of websites like Amazon.com, but we are not quite sure if going through elaborate measures to acquire textbooks (renting and spending hours trying to resell) is worth our time. After all, time is money, and we have neither.

 

 

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