Students weigh the pros, cons of buying books online

Bookstore manager argues trend has been popular for several years now

When senior Elly Krumwiede decided to buy her books this semester, she opted to go on-line rather than wait in one.

"My correspondence class recommended that I buy my book at Ball State, but all they had was new and it cost $90," Krumwiede, a journalism major, said. "I had bought other things online before, and thought I would check out buying the book."

While Krumwiede said she was satisfied purchasing her book over the Internet and saving a few dollars, she admits that she will continue to browse the shelves of campus bookstores as well.

"The bookstores on campus are more convenient and I like being able to sell my books back for cash," she said.

Despite more and more students like Krumwiede choosing to cut back-to-school costs by shopping for books online, Melissa Brinker, manager of the Ball State Bookstore, said Web-browsing for textbooks is a trend that has been around for several years now.

"Web sites are old," Brinker said. "Two years ago they were big, and it may be new to Muncie, but it's an old hat company-wide."

With the total cost of textbooks often rising to the sum of several hundred dollars, many students question why prices for certain books range so drastically from one bookstore to another.

Brinker said differences in pricing are for various reasons.

"We have a standard mark-up of 25 percent on all publishers and a 30-percent mark-up on non-returnable items," Brinker said. "Books like 'A Wellness Way of Life,' and the communication 210 packet have such an increase."

Brinker explained the five-percent increase does not profit the bookstore. Instead, it covers the cost of penalties the bookstore may incur if students return the books.

"The price is usually higher if we have to order more books from the publisher," Fred McIIrath, manager of TIS Bookstore, said. "If we don't have to order any from the publisher, we might not take a price increase."

Nonetheless, students who are book shopping may decide that -- price increase or not -- the click of a mouse may be the way to go.

After browsing the Web site, a division of eBay that promises books at costs lower than list price, an elementary education textbook found used at CBX Bookstore for $44 cost is only $18.24 online.

"We offer people a fixed-price, online market place to buy and sell high-quality, new, overstocked, remaindered, and used products at discounted prices," founder Joshua Kopelman said.

Brinker and McIIrath both said that shopping around for the cheapest price of textbooks is a student's best bet, but argue there are advantages to on-campus buying -- such as textbook buy-back.

TIS Bookstore guarantees students 75 percent cash back on books, and Ball State Bookstore ensures a 50 percent cash back on returned items -- as long as the professor will use the material in future classes.

But Jennifer Talbert, instructor of communication studies and director of individual events, argues the buy-back policy may not be as much of an incentive as it's advertised to be.

"It's just not true, you don't get much back for the books," said Talbert, who does not require students to buy books for several of her classes. "I still have a book sitting in my office from when I was an undergraduate because they offered me 50 cents.

"That doesn't help students who could really use the money to invest in their next semester's books."

Freshman marketing major Brad Schloss said he's been warned about how much he'll get back for his first semester's worth of books.

"I spent $411 on books this semester and everyone tells me I can expect to get about $100 of that back," Schloss said. "(That's if) I'm lucky."

Scott Ronnau, manager of CBX Bookstore, said buy-back prices vary because every book is different.

"Buy-back is based on whether the instructor is using it next semester. Books that get re-used have a good buy-back value," Ronnau said.

Brinker encouraged students who want to sell their books back to get them in early.

"If you know that you aren't going to need it during finals, then sell it back," she said. "You'll get the most back for your money."

For now, Talbert said she will continue with the textbook policy she feels is the most reasonable for her classes.

"I don't feel comfortable asking students to buy several different textbooks," Talbert said. "The profile of the type of student at Ball State is one whose parents had to sacrifice an awful lot for them to come. Most of the students work, some even have full-time jobs, and (books) are price burdens.

"I can't control the price of tuition, but I can control the price of books."


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