Buy the book

Textbooks can be pricey, but there are some opportunities to give your pocketbook a rest

Photo By David Robert

1t’s not unusual to enter the ASUN bookstore for 10 minutes and emerge $200 poorer from one textbook purchase.

More often than not, the semester begins with a mad dash to the ASUN bookstore for a desperately needed textbook that can cost more than a semester of Silver parking.

It’s not a surprise, as college textbooks, along with tuition, increase in cost every year.

According to a 2004 study released by the California Student Public Interest Research Group, University of California, students spent an average of $898 per year on new or used textbooks in the 2003-04 year. That figure rose about 40 percent from 1996-97.

But instead of using the ASUN bookstore for all your college purchases, why not try your hand at some alternative resources?

By far, the most widely used textbook stores are on the Internet. Sites such as, and are good choices for purchasing textbooks, according to Tammy Lam, a customer service representative at is one of hundreds of textbooks sites that sell cheaper textbooks for students and a marketplace for students to sell their old books at prices that Lam says are typically 25 percent more than the book-buyback companies offer.

The added benefit of sites such as Campusbooks is that all the searching is done for you, Lam said.

Before Lam joined Campusbooks, she said her traditional textbook shopping procedure included searching for the ISBN number on Google and then doing a price comparison on each search that appeared.

But she learned first-hand how textbooks sites make it easier for students to do their entire textbook shopping at once.

“It gives you a one-stop place to do all that,” Lam said. “Punch in the title, and it does a price comparison for you.”

After you enter in the ISBN number, will offer you a list of the prices available from about 40 top online bookstores.

Most often, and are in the top sellers, Lam said.

Like all good things, there is a catch.

If you buy from’s marketplace, there are no refunds, as opposed to buying it from or

Ask your peers which online site is the best. You may hear horror stories from students who didn’t receive their textbooks three weeks after placing an order.

Other sites include, and

Although the Internet is a good place for purchasing books, sometimes a little creativity will save you some money.

Here are some ideas.

1. If you are taking a class that is heavy in literature, say Core Humanities, many of the books could be found in the library. What’s the point of buying The Odyssey when there are 10 different versions downstairs?

2. Marie Stewart, ASUN bookstore manager, says some sites offer downloadable chapters online. Sometimes, you can get a chapter summary from a textbook.

3. Share with a friend. If you are taking a class with a friend (take core classes together), you could possibly make a schedule for sharing the book in the first few weeks of school. Caution, book sharing requires organization by both parties. When finals come around, it might be handy to have purchased a second book.

4. Friends. Brothers. Sisters. Libraries. There are many ways to receive hand-me-down books. Sometimes, if you are lucky, your friends or siblings might have taken the class, and the same edition is being used. If not, sometimes the older edition works just as well.

5. Course Reserves. Some teachers have books on course reserves in the library. Check the book out if it is on course reserves. Just make sure to return the book within the next two hours.

6. If you’re hip enough to handle it, there is The University of Nevada MySpace page is also an advertising spot for cheap, hungry college students wishing to unload their textbooks. As a bonus, you can check out apartment listings as well.

Now after you have checked out every library book reserve possible and used all your luck on reading chapter summaries on books or shared all your textbooks with a friend, maybe the ASUN bookstore is for you.

Contrary to popular belief, the ASUN bookstore isn’t out to steal your hard-earned cash by charging high prices for textbooks.

According to bookstore manager Stewart, the most profitable items in the bookstore aren’t 400-level engineering books but items such as clothing, gift cards and snacks.

“After all is said and done, after purchasing, shipping— we’re lucky if we make 3-5 percent on textbooks,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the ASUN bookstore typically makes about $8-9 million on the sale of textbooks. But sites such as don’t necessarily daunt her.

“The bottom line is books are going to be around forever,” Stewart said. “Books are great. They are convenient. The need is still there, and students look at whatever is convenient.”

Stewart said she has often seen students returning back to the bookstore after a difficult purchase online.

The Internet has helped Stewart and the ASUN bookstore. ASUN’s online textbook store has grown by leaps and bounds since it was introduced, Stewart said.

“In August of 2004, we made about $80,000 in a six-week period,” Stewart said. “Last year, we made almost $280,000 in a one-week period. That’s how we play with the technology and how we combat technology. We’re willing to invest in this type of technology.”

Erik Larsen, an ASUN bookstore retail storekeeper, said that the likely culprit for the rise of textbook prices is the publisher. Many publishers raise prices on textbooks since books are being furnished with new CD packages and Internet add-ons.

If you have an older edition book, the book buyback process can seem daunting because of supply and demand, Larsen said.

“There are some books that even for a nationally used book company that are in high demand,” Larsen said.

Because the nationally used book company wants that book, Larsen said, they’ll pay more to get it if it’s scarce. If you bring a book that is not as popular, the book buyback companies, usually from Missouri or Nebraska, will not pay as much, Larsen said.

But Larsen said the ASUN bookstore, which is not funded by the state, does try to save UNR students money by purchasing as many used books as possible.

Those students who do end up purchasing from the bookstore shouldn’t be too sad, Stewart said, because all the money goes back to the students in one way or another.