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Economics 101: Textbooks


At the Rice Bookstore, this new book costs $258.00. On Amazon, it costs $61.99.

By Tina Nazerian     9/3/14 2:32pm

It’s the second week of classes, and students have been buying textbooks for their new classes. According to the official Barnes and Noble website, Barnes and Noble College Booksellers LLC operates 700 college and university bookstores in the United States, including Rice University’s, as of May 3, 2014.

In Texas, Barnes and Noble also operates bookstores at other universities — such as Stephen F. Austin State University, the University of North Texas and Texas A&M University.

Some colleges use other providers, such as Abilene Christian University, which owns and operates its own bookstore; Austin College and Baylor University, which both use Follett Higher Education, a family-owned bookstore provider managing more than 930 bookstores nationwide; and Texas Lutheran University, which uses a local bookstore.

Baker College junior Michael He said price is the only thing that would motivate him to buy books from Rice’s bookstore.

“Which is why I don’t buy from the bookstore, or sell there for that matter,” He said. “99 percent of books I’ve had for classes are at least twice as expensive on Amazon, even the cheap English books. The only time the bookstore was cheaper was the Neuroscience book for BIOC 380.”

Martel College senior Elle Eccles said she almost always buys books online, checking Amazon first.

“If I’m not content with the Amazon official or used book prices, I go to Half Price Books online and buy there,” Eccles said. “The only time I’ve ever used the book store, really, was for some of my [psychology] classes where I rented a book, since I’m too lazy to comb the community for the book I need — and because it was convenient. But in general, Amazon prices save money. Since [Half Price Books] always makes you pay shipping, I’m less inclined to use that, but combined I spend less. Especially with [English] classes’ books, because they’re typically just plays or novels that cost about $5/book used online and $13/book new in the bookstore.”

According to McMurtry College junior Ansley Jones, a book she had placed on backorder at the bookstore did not show up until October.

“I ended up ordering the book on Amazon,” Jones said. “I tried to cancel the original order by calling the bookstore, but they did not listen to me. They kept calling me in October when the book came in, but I told them over and over again that I cancelled the order, so I was not going to come in and get the book. Even though I never picked it up, they still charged me for the book.”

Jones said she tried calling the bookstore after they charged her, but they never gave her a refund.

“Luckily, the book was only $14, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but still, this experience made me never want to order anything from the bookstore ever again,” Jones said.

McMurtry freshman Albert Zamoriy said the Duncan College Book Exchange and the Facebook page for Rice Students Selling Stuff are helpful, but buying from the bookstore is cheaper in at least one case.

“If you need the Stewart Calculus book for MATH 101/102, the bookstore combo of WebAssign and the book is cheaper than buying the book and code separately,” Zamoriy said. “I know a lot of Rice students need to take at least one, if not both of those classes. So that’s helpful to know. I wish I knew that before hand. I actually lost about $10 because I bought the code and book separately.”

McMurtry sophomore Annie Nordhauser said there have been problems with upperclassmen trying to sell the freshmen their books with the used WebAssign access codes that no longer work for about $50.

“The freshmen will have to buy the access code separately for an additional $75,” Nordhauser said. “So some upperclassmen knowingly sell their books without the code at high prices, and the freshmen buy them not knowing they will have to buy something else.”

Sid Richardson College senior Malaz Mohammad said there might be another side of the story people do not talk about.

“My English professor, Professor [Colleen] Lamos, told us to support bookstores because they are being monopolized and pushed out of business by huge corporations like Amazon,” Mohammad said. “And that’s great and all, except that Amazon writes its own guidelines and will starve publishers into compliance. She fears that very soon there will be no option but for us to buy all our books from Amazon as it dictates everything: the price that it gives the publishers, the price that it sells to us, which can never be good. We might have to face prices even higher than the ones we so loath in the bookstores currently.”

Looking at the chart, Sid Richardson junior Leticia Trevino said the bookstore appears to be more expensive for the most part, and the price difference, especially for used books, is substantially large when compared to Amazon.

“Honestly, I have no idea [why that is],” Trevino said. “It’s not right though. I mean, I can understand new textbooks being so expensive, but used books (especially in some of the extremely poor conditions the books are in) should be priced substantially less. That also goes for renting books. If the books people rent are returned worse than when they received them, they should be charged a penalty fee; that way other students that rent them don’t have terrible books.”

Duncan College junior Sean Lee said for the most part, students should and will buy textbooks used online at older editions as well.

“When you’re buying four textbooks for the semester, you will certainly go out of your way to find cheaper alternatives,” Lee said. “Try slugbooks.com. It gives you different prices from several known distributors, and it will often find you older editions as well, which is a decision a lot of freshmen are afraid of making for fear that the old textbook will miss something that will affect their grade. If the class syllabus says you need the [10th edition], you’re not [going to] go out and find the cheapest [10th edition]. You’re [going to] go find the eighth international version. I think [for] many science textbooks, it’s okay to get an older edition.”

Lee said students can access homework problems from others’ textbooks.

“In the CAAM department at least, many of the problems are given separately from the textbook, or the professor will accommodate for older editions,” Lee said. “Overall, the idea that problems are different in the new textbooks shouldn’t be something that will convince him or her to drop huge sums of money on the newest edition.”

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