Heavy Text Books, Light Wallet

Students Consider Multiple Sources When Searching for Costly Text Books


At the beginning of each semester students scramble to buy their required text books and sell their old ones for the best price possible. The University has a campus bookstore that can help students with most of their text book needs, but there are many other outside resources available as well.

Buying text books, no matter the seller, can be quite expensive depending on the book and condition. Many sellers offer, however, a way to essentially borrow text books for a flat rate through the semester. The University’s book store also offers this option.

Bill Rainey, campus book store employee explains why it is such a great privilege. “Students renting are allowed to keep the book until the last day of finals,” Rainey said. “Many online book rental places have a fixed number of weeks that are not long enough to cover our semester resulting in additional charges.”

Online vendors such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, however, have a flexible time policy when renting text books and even allow students to extend their rental periods. According to their websites, both vendors’ typical rental periods are 130 days, but Barnes and Noble offers shorter rentals for a lower cost. New or used condition is not guaranteed for rentals from either vendor.

Sophomore Tyler Vandergrift said that he saved money by renting books instead of buying them. “I bought from the bookstore and Amazon last year and spent nearly $500 a semester,” said Vandergrift. “I decided to switch to renting all my books this year from either the bookstore or and have cut that cost in half.”

The rental program at the University may still seem expensive, but benefits students in the long run. “We have no fixed percentage against a new price when we rent a book. Market factors intervene,” Rainey said. “If a book is relatively new, say only one year into copyright, rental prices will be more, probably about 45-50 percent of the new price because there are fewer books on the online market. As books get older, the rental prices will go down due to competitive forces. It takes us at least two semesters of rentals to make any profit on a book we rent, but after that, when it has been ‘paid’ for we can rent or sell it less expensively– that is why the real benefits of the rental program will be seen in the next few years as we can reduce some prices even more drastically.”

As for buying new or used text books, some students agree that the campus bookstore is more costly than other options. Brandon Bulinsky, a sophomore at the University said, “I try to stay away from buying from the [campus] bookstore as much as possible, with the exception of those bundles that I can’t find anywhere else. Their prices are way too high.”

Rainey explains the marketing factor and puts reason behind the numbers. “Traditionally, the store has used a ‘standard’ markup when we sell books over our cost,” Rainey said. “Used books were then sold at a standard percentage (25 percent) of the new price. While this is still generally the case, rentals have made it a little murkier.”

Not only are students using the campus book store and online vendors to buy and sell text books, but they post on the University Facebook pages to sell to each other as well. Bulinsky claims he has bought text books from other students who posted about them on the ‘Monmouth University Class of 2015’ Facebook page. For more examples, just visit the University groups on Facebook at the beginning or end of a semester.

Buying books is one battle, but getting rid of them at the end of a semester is another. Some vendors and book stores will buy back used books for a fraction of the original price. will buy back books and credit the seller with an Amazon gift card. The campus bookstore, however will buy back text books for cash even if they were bought elsewhere.

“Students have traditionally gotten 50 percent of the new retail of a book when they sell back books if the book is being used next term and we know it,” Rainey said. “Otherwise it is based on national demand and can be from 0 -35 percent.”

More often than not, according to student reactions, the buyback rates are on the lower side. Harmony Bailey, sophomore, said, “The buyback prices aren’t worth selling back. I usually try to sell to other people and make a profit.” Brianna Mahoney, sophomore, agrees.

“It bothers me how little we get when we sell [text books] back,” she said.

Though online and student sources can be more cost effective than the campus bookstore, the University offers more reliability. Rainey said, “We are best in terms of reliability. If we don’t have a book or run out of it we will get more and if there is a change to your book within the first two weeks we will make refunds and adjustments. Pricewise it is impossible for us to compete with marketplaces but we are now using a much more variable pricing model.”