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Students find alternatives to high-priced text books

January 28th, 2010

With new classes comes the task of purchasing new textbooks. As prices at the JCU bookstore soar, more and more students are choosing to purchase their books online or share them with friends to save their college funds. 

 “I spent nearly $500 on my textbooks this semester at the bookstore. It’s the biggest rip-off in college,” said sophomore Odell Brown. “We already pay a lot of money to go here and it’s unfair that we have to spend enormous amounts of money on books that we only use for four months.” 

Other JCU students are choosing not to buy their books from the bookstore, instead purchasing them second-hand through popular Web sites such as Amazon.com. 

Another option some students are using is renting textbooks rather than purchasing them, which can be done through Web sites like Chegg.com. 

Many textbooks on Chegg cost less than half of what the JCU Bookstore is charging students, and once students no longer need the textbooks they just send them back without shipping costs.

Sophomore Emily Cassidy rented her books from Chegg and also bought some from Amazon.  

“My books through the bookstore would have cost over $600. Through these Web sites I got all of my books for less than $200 and they were all in really good condition,” she said.

Freshman Laura Kisthardt used Chegg, too. 

“I didn’t buy any of my books at the bookstore. I always try to get the cheapest possible book, and my book from Chegg would have been $60 used or $80 new if I had gotten it from the Bookstore,” said Kisthardt. 

Many students are frustrated because some classes require frequently updated editions of textbooks with access codes for online programs that accompany the textbook, and as a result students cannot purchase used or earlier editions of those textbooks. 

Joseph Miller, a professor in the communications department at JCU, said that textbook pricing is complicated and that pricing policies differ between departments. 

“One book we use for CO 100 is used in all sections, but that text is printed specifically for JCU because it has a part we alone include and use. It is also shrink-wrapped to keep costs as low as possible for students,” said Miller.

He added that certain textbooks require frequent updating. 

“Not only do shipping costs add to the overall pricing of textbooks, but getting reproduction rights to produce pictures in certain textbooks raises prices as well. There are many issues involved in text selection and pricing,” he said.

The JCU Bookstore is a leased enterprise that is privately owned and operated by the Follett Company. Follett specializes in bookstores for private universities.

Follett announced this week that it is going to start a pilot program to rent certain textbooks at Loyola University Chicago; however, it is uncertain whether JCU will decide to start renting textbooks in the future. Bookstore Manager Jim Traverse was unavailable to comment. 

John Carroll’s Bookstore’s Web site currently has eBooks that are available for students to download as either PDF files or audio files, but some students think that these prices are still quite expensive and would rather just purchase the textbook or borrow it from the library. 

Sophomore Megan Muhar said, “I would rather just buy the textbooks from the Bookstore than download them. Although they’re quite expensive, you can find some used textbooks that are quite cheap through kids who have taken the class and are trying to sell them back. That’s usually how I try and get some of my books.”

Although the textbooks at the JCU Bookstore are expensive, in some cases, students have to acknowledge company costs surrounding publishing and re-selling rights, as well as shipping costs from the Follett Company to the Bookstore. In many ways, the issue of college textbook prices is complicated.  

Nevertheless, more and more students are finding ways to save themselves money and still get the textbooks that they need for their classes. 

With Web sites like Chegg and Amazon growing in popularity by the day, as well as the availability of used textbooks at the JCU Bookstore, the stress of buying expensive textbooks may soon be a thing of the past.