While some students work to try to find the cheapest textbooks, others are only concerned with convenience.
With online textbook providers such as half.com and Amazon.com offering “unbeatable” deals, local bookstores rely on their availability and proximity to campus to keep them in business.
Randy Johnson, 710 Bookstore general manager, said he thinks despite online providers’ low prices, students keep coming back to 710 because of the service and convenience.
“We will always have competition, but our staff knows this campus and we serve specifically to SIU students. You’re not going to find that online,” he said. “I don’t have a way to determine the actual amount of students who use our bookstore, but I’m confident that the majority of Carbondale’s students use 710.”
Nate Skwierczynski, a junior from Gurnee studying computer engineering, said he uses a combination of 710 Bookstore and
online sources to get his textbooks.
“I’ve learned over the years that was the cheapest way to go,” he said.
Skwierczynski said while ideally more students will switch to using online bookstores as the Internet becomes more prominent in society, he thinks there will always be a need for community stores as well.
“There is always going to be a demand for quick books. People are always going to put off buying them until there is no other option but to buy them locally,” he
Josh Sager, a freshman from Lincoln studying aviation flight, said he purchases all of his books from the University Bookstore because it is only his second semester and it was the most obvious option.
“During orientation they really pushed the University Bookstore, and it is so convenient, so I figure why not?” he said.
Sager said the majority of his friends do the same thing. They use the University Bookstore because it’s on campus and they can stop by the Student Center at any time, he said.
Mike Dixon, a senior from Rockford studying biological sciences, said he tries to get as many of his books online as he can.
“My first semester here I purchased all of my books from the University Bookstore because I didn’t really know my surroundings and it was easy,” he said. “I ended up spending over $700 that semester. That’s three months’ rent.”
Dixon said he will never make that mistake again. He said he uses online price comparisons to find the cheapest possible combination.
Websites such as addallbooks.com and Bigwords.com compare prices of all online retailers to find the cheapest combination.
Jeff Sherwood, CEO of Bigwords.com, said what students want is the cheapest price.
“We have seen in the last 10 years the number of online customers go from essentially nothing to now over 30 percent of students,” he said. “The prominence of the Internet has made a huge change in the online market and will continue to.”
Sherwood said he thinks local bookstores are not in danger.
“I think that on-campus stores will continue to innovate as a result of competitive pressure.”
Ali Sparkes, a freshman from Palatine studying architectural studies, said she bought her textbooks online last semester and saved a lot of money, but has
decided to buy them from the University Bookstore this semester because she didn’t have enough time to order them online.
She said she knows she could have saved money through buying online, but the time saved by buying them on campus makes that option easier.
Chad Nale, University Bookstore manager, said he knows students shop at multiple sources, and it’s the competition that keeps the University Bookstore sharp about the goods and services the bookstore provides.
“We’re now featuring Rent-A-Text. In the Fall 2011 semester, rental saved students here at SIUC $220,000,” he said.
Sparkes said she thinks renting textbooks is a great idea for students attending general education classes.
“If you know you’re not going to keep the book then why not rent it?” she said.
Sherwood said students are more likely to save money by buying and selling books.
“Even though Bigwords.com offers rentals, we found that students who purchase the cheapest version of a book have an 80 percent sell-back rate at the end of the semester, so really it’s a much cheaper option,” he said.
Sherwood said when buying back is taken into account, Bigwords.com helps students save $1,000 a year.
Nale said he is not threatened by online sources.
“Today, we position our store as the central hub of student choice,” he said.
“ There is no single or ‘ultimate’ solution to affordability but rather a combination based on the student, how they learn, where they attend class, amongst an assortment of other criteria.”