Buy books as a last resort

By By Anne Roper and By Anne Roper

By Anne Roper

Throughout my college experience, I have heard no combination of words more vexing than, “I’m sorry, your professor is moving to a new edition. We can’t buy your book back.”

With the new edition of a law book added to my already too-large textbook library, and my go-to sites www.Half.com and www.Amazon.com yielding disappointing results, I had a painfully clear epiphany: buying textbooks should be the last resort for students.

Several universities include a rental fee with tuition. Amanda Morley, a first-year grad student in the education leadership and policy program, said Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill., uses another method.

The university’s Web site listed the average textbook rental fee at $298 for Fall and Spring Semesters. The students check out and return their books to the bookstore for the semester, similar to how textbooks are distributed at public K-12 schools.

Since the example of other universities doesn’t take any of the bite out of textbook prices at the U, students can also rent their books online from Web sites such as www.Campusbookrentals.com. The Clearfield-based company allows textbooks to be rented for a choice of three lengths of time: a semester of 130 days, a quarter of 85 days and summer, which is 55 days.

“(When renting,) you don’t take any risk,” Alan Martin said, founder of www.Campusbookrentals.com. “Even if the bookstore buys your book back, you’ll only get back as much as you would spend renting, worse case scenario.”

Cheaper still, form a study group with a few people from class. Buy a book and split the cost, then assign book-custody days or weeks to the group members. Each group member becomes an expert on the assigned reading for the chapter and reports back to the study group on what it said. If you learn something well enough to teach it clearly to your group, then you know you really understand it. When exam time comes around, gather the group around your shared property and make sure everything was covered. This option means two of my favorite things: less reading and less money spent on a textbook.

The previous option still suggests purchasing a textbook. If you want to sell it back for the best price, do it sooner rather than later. The more time that elapses could mean that more people have sold their books back, and therefore the bookstore won’t want your copy.

There are additional ways to get around paying for books. Ask your professor to put a copy of the textbook on reserve at the library. Many professors already do this, and I’ve never encountered a professor that didn’t feel at least a little guilty for the price of the book.

If none of those work, there is still hope. The bookstore offers a textbook loan program, but only to its employees.

“As long as you commit to working the whole semester, the bookstore will loan out your books to you,” said bookstore employee Hillary Thorstrom, a senior in English and history. “For free.”

Buying overpriced books isn’t the only option. Students should look into other possibilities before taking the dive.

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Kevin Merriman

Anne Roper