The Fox Journal

Student Newspaper

Students look for best book prices

By Monica Montano

UW-Fox bookstore manager Vic LeClair does work at the campus store on Nov. 11.

Photo by Avery Leith
UW-Fox bookstore manager Vic LeClair
does work at the campus store on Nov. 11.

College textbook prices have jumped 82 percent in the past decade, according to USA Today. The average college student will spend at least $655 on textbooks.

As prices continue to rise, seven in ten college students admit to not buying certain books at all, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"I would just search for a cheaper alternative, but if the book was in really bad condition, I would just suck it up and pay for it at the bookstore," freshman Kayla Niemuth said.

Selling used books, offering price-match deals, and electronic books are all options that the UW-Fox bookstore offers for students. Some are more popular than others, used books and price-matching; but others such as the electronic books seem to be less popular.

"If I ran out of the hard-copy books, I would say I have an electronic one and [the students] would say they didn't want it," UW-Fox bookstore manager Vic LeClair said.

With devices such as the Kindle and Nook, students should be more lenient to E-books, but they may not be simply because they are still too expensive.

"It may sound like a good idea, but I don't think the prices are down far enough to bite," LeClair said.

"The one problem that I'm aware of with an E-Reader is that it takes away the possibility of buying a used book, and sometimes a used book is going to be cheaper than [purchasing] and downloading any book," world languages professor Hillary Engelhart said.

As newer editions of books are released, instructors must also question whether having students pay more for the updated version is worth it.

"I keep trying to stay with the older editions. Why? What needs updating? ...They are really only changing the example problems [in the book]," professor of astronomy and physics Douglas Fowler said.

Professor Fowler compares one of the astronomy textbooks his class is required to buy, to a small paperback he purchased at a local bookstore which covers the same topic.

"It's an unethical issue, when you find a book that has similar construction, similar content that are marketed to the general public for only $20-$25, but as soon as it's sold to college students, the price goes up far above $100," Fowler said.

Instructors are looking for ways to minimize the amount students spend on books.

Rather than having students buying an entire book with material that may not be covered within the semester, instructors are finding ways to only work with what they know will be covered.

"I worked with the publisher to select just those chapters that I think we will get to, plus those chapters in the workbook and lab manual, and they made a custom book that just has those," Engelhart said.

Instructors feel this is a practical way to reduce textbook costs.

"All three books put together in one book is just about one-third of the price of having the students buy all three texts, and since it's all in one book, they don't have to carry all three books around," Engelhart said.

Another alternative to lower the cost of books would be tuition-based books.

"Tuition pays for your books; they take the base rate of the semester. Say $10 a credit goes towards your books, because you figure you're taking 15 credits, then that's $150 to spend on books," LeClair said.

The bookstore also offers students to option sell their books back to the store for a determined price.

"[Buy-back prices] are determined by the instructor, basically. If the instructor comes to me and says they're going to use this book again, then I buy it. If they don't get back to me before buy-back, then you're at the mercy of the whole-sale price. The highest price you'll get is if it's a book I need for the following semester," LeClair said.


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