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Last updateWed, 16 Aug 2017 8am

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The Price is Right: The Truth about the Textbook

textbookscmyk2It’s a new year and a new semester, which for the University Bookstore, means long lines of students, tons of textbooks, and an awful lot of money in exchange for said books. This new year was shown to be very futuristic and innovative on old movies and TV shows, and time will tell how modern we will be when it comes to our book buying this year. 2015 was a year predicted to have flying cars, talking garbage cans, and hover boards (according to Back to the Future, that is,) but will it be the year that textbook sales decline?

In an age of blossoming technology and so much power at our fingertips, will students decide to find cheaper solutions to mounting textbook prices online? Services such as Amazon and Chegg provide students the opportunity to rent textbooks as well as buy them for cheap. Yet, students continue to flock the bookstore. The question here is, why? 

Textbooks are some of the most expensive things students will have to purchase in their college careers. Once they get past tuition, loans, and dues for organizations, they will have to dole out hundreds of dollars for a book they may never need. In return, they are given back anywhere from five bucks to a penny for the same book at the semester’s end. The cost of textbooks has risen over 800 percent since 1978, according to an article by USA Today called “College textbooks could be the digital age’s next victim.”

Nicki Hernandez, assistant manager of course materials at the University Bookstore, offered insight into the world of textbook sales. Hernandez explained that back in 1978, there were hundreds of small publishing companies, which allowed competition and thereby low prices for books. Today however, there are just a couple of giant cooperation’s with the power to sell books for whatever price they’d like. 

“I know people think we’re ripping them off, but we’re not. Amazon can sell a book for 75 percent off because they have thousands of them, while we have 100. We can’t compete sometimes with those places, due to natural supply and demand,” Hernandez pointed out. 

When students purchase their books off Amazon, their money goes to their powerhouse of cooperation. But, when students buy them at the school store, the proceeds can actually benefit them. “We are owned and operated by the University, so all profits are going back into the University, which essentially could keep tuition costs down,” Hernandez added. 

Most students struggle enough with finances as it is, leading to the increasing amount of piracy in downloading textbooks. Online file sharing has already taking its toll on the music industry and the textbook companies could be next. However, websites such as Amazon and Chegg offer textbooks for a lot less money. Students can also sell back their books on Amazon and charge whatever they’d like. 

I bought a textbook for a single dollar last semester, and thanks to the renting option, my wallet didn’t hate me as much as it could have. So while I steer clear of the bookstore during textbook buying season, many students are still crowding the room. 

Samantha Marella, a sophomore business marketing major, said that while she prefers sites such as Amazon, the bookstore keeps reeling her back in. “Monmouth requires access codes and ‘Monmouth University’ editions of books, forcing students to buy from the book store.”

Some students are forced into using the bookstore, as Danielle Romanowski, a sophomore business finance major, pointed out, “I’m required to buy my textbooks from the bookstore because of my financial aid.” 

Universities do their best to ensure that students are handing over all their money to the school bookstore, and in turn, the University itself. Hernandez stressed the importance of students factoring in the cost of their books before the semester begins. “I would highly advise students to factor in the cost of textbooks, just like they would tuition or housing.  If you are a science or business major, you should expect to spend upwards of $1,000 per semester on textbooks.  Other majors can get away with spending a couple hundred per semester.” 

For students who find themselves not needing an access code or a Monmouth University version of a textbook, e-books, online buying sources, and piracy are the most popular choices for textbooks. A study by the Book Industry Study Group conducted just last year found that over 25 percent of students illegally download their textbooks.

 Hernandez feels this percentage seems false, and said that the University Store hasn’t seen much piracy. “I would not say that illegal downloads are the main reason textbooks sales have been declining over the years.  There are so many other ways (outside of the University Store) that students can purchase textbooks,” she contended. 

Stephanie Merlis, a sophomore business marketing major, said that she tries avoiding the bookstore when possible because that’s where the textbook prices are the highest. But, “For certain classes you need codes and those are cheaper at the bookstore,” Merlis explained, before adding, “If I knew how to illegally download textbooks, I would.” 

The answer to the climbing textbook costs is not clear. Services like Amazon provide books for cheap, but shopping at our University Store can potentially keep students’ tuition down. Students should check out all their options before making a purchase. 2015 may be a year predicted to be futuristic, but time will tell how the future of textbooks will go.

IMAGE TAKEN by Clare Maurer

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