Shortly after the big fat tuition check is signed and sent off to the University, another hefty expenditure approaches: textbooks. A typical semester could set a student back hundreds of dollars in books alone, not to mention the extra costs of other school supplies.
But unlike with tuition, textbook shoppers have a few different options. By carefully weighing the choices, students can save a bundle on books, just like the coupon clipping penny-pinchers in the grocery line.
The default stop for many students is the NMU Bookstore on the first floor of the University Center. The bookstore’s on-campus location makes it an easy stop for students and because it’s the official store for the university, every book for every class is guaranteed to be obtained. If it’s not on the shelf, the store will have it ordered and delivered by second-day air.
“The NMU bookstore is the only place that students need to shop,” said Paul Wright, assistant bookstore manager. “It’s one-stop shopping. The books that students need are going to be here . and if we don’t, we’ll get it in.”
Although the books may cost more at the NMU Bookstore than the other options, the customer-friendly return policy and eventual buy-back options that Web sites typically cannot match are bonuses.
Another advantage of shopping on-campus is the bookstore’s Web site, www.nmubookstore.com. There, students can browse through textbooks and even reserve and purchase their books. The Web site is one reason that, despite constant competition, the bookstore’s sales have steadily increased each year, Wright said.
Melissa Ledford, a junior elementary education major, picked up her books for the current semester from the bookstore, although it wasn’t what she had originally planned.
“I procrastinated and bought my books on the first day of classes,” Ledford said. “I normally do purchase them online or from peers first, if possible.”
If textbook prices aren’t the number one priority for a student, the NMU Bookstore could be the best option. Students looking to get all of their books quickly and conveniently in one stop will be satisfied.
The new kid on the block is Students First, located at 502 W. Washington St.
Students First relies on one main idea as their selling point: Their books are guaranteed less expensive than at the NMU Bookstore.
“Simply put, we are the cheapest,” said Tim Weingarten, the store’s manager. “Due to the Internet, we can check prices instantly and when a prices changes, we look it up and correct any discrepancies.”
A brand new macro-economics textbook which is marked at $154.05 at the NMU Bookstore can be picked up used at Students First for $89.25.
Weingarten said his store sells their books at least 5 percent cheaper than the competition on campus. There are times when books can be found for much more than 5 percent, however, especially when the bookstore only has brand new copies and Students First has used versions, Weingarten said.
“The only difference between our small store and the large one is the number of each book that we order. We order a smaller amount for each class,” Weingarten said.
C.J. Beil, a junior construction management major was satisfied after making his textbook pick-up from Students First this semester.
“I trust that their books will be the cheapest and they’ll give me the most money back,” Beil said.
When the semester comes to an end, Weingarten said that Students First will buy back textbooks for either greater than or equal to what Northern offers.
Although their prices are cheaper, Students First cannot guarantee that they will have every necessary textbook. Because they order fewer amounts of each book, sell-outs are common and students will have to seek another option.
Students looking for the cheapest prices and who would like to avoid waiting for books to ship and other potential hassles from an online retailer can check out Students First.
Usually the least expensive place to buy textbooks is through online retailers. However, when it comes to customer service and reliability, Web sites are much less convenient. The hugely popular online store Amazon.com has typically similar prices for new textbooks compared to what you’d find locally.
Where Amazon.com really sets itself apart is with its prices on used books. In some cases, like with the required text for HP200, “Fit & Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness,” the used price is more than half of the price found in the NMU Bookstore.
Things to consider with online shopping are shipping costs, delivery time and the fact that what is ordered might not be exactly what was expected. Without actually being able to hold the book in your hand and flip through it before purchasing can be a drawback, especially when a textbook comes with an attached workbook or CD-Rom. Also, Web sites like Amazon.com sometimes have different versions and editions of books mixed up.
Still, these are risks many students are willing to take for such a break on their total textbook bill. If price is the number one concern, online shopping can be the best choice.