NMU students have several choices on where to get their textbooks this coming semester. These options include the NMU Bookstore, online textbook sellers and other stores throughout the Marquette community.
NMU senior business management major Jordan Houghtaling has learned to shop around to get the best price on his textbooks every semester.
“I spend about 40 percent less on books [when using the internet],” he said. “I am able to use that extra money on groceries and other things I need for college.”
Houghtaling said his textbooks cost approximately $220 online, compared to $400 if he would have chosen to shop at the NMU Bookstore. However, the savings he and others receive as online shoppers come from putting in extra effort.
The delivery time usually takes about a week, but Houghtaling said students have to get off to an early start to save real money online.
“If you don’t get them early enough in advance it’s not worth it,” he said. “You have to get them early or the extra cost for fast shipping digs into the money you will be saving.”
However, most students don’t seem willing to pass up the convenience of bookstores on campus.
According to a study done by the National Association of College Stores (NACS), 70 percent of college students chose to get their supplies from campus bookstores over internet book sellers in 2008.
NMU bookstore manager Mike Kuzak said that the campus bookstore can provide a level of customer service that large internet companies can’t compete with. This includes the ability to carry all the books that NMU students need for their classes.
The bookstore will also buy back books if a student drops the class in the first three weeks of the semester.
“The main thing we offer that online companies can’t offer is security,” he said. “If a student buys a book and they get it from us, they know that they are getting the right thing, and if it turns out to not be the right thing, it’s going to get fixed with no additional cost to them.”
Kuzak said that for some classes, students will need their books right away and can’t afford to wait for the online companies to ship the book they ordered to them.
“If you need an accounting book or a math book, you are going to need it that first week in order to keep up,” he said. “It’s not a good idea to take too much risk with it.”
The NMU Bookstore also offers several programs that make it easier for students to get their textbooks, including the ability to charge the books to their student account. According to Kuzak, this program has raised the overall sales of the bookstore by 10 to 12 percent.
“They still have to pay for [the books] but they get a little more time,” said assistant bookstore manager Paul Wright. “Twenty five percent of students are using [their student accounts] this fall semester.”
According to both Wright and Kuzak, students can find themselves spending unnecessary money if they purchase a book online and a professor changes the text requirements for the class.
“All it takes is one time to get burned,” said Wright.
Although the campus bookstore is usually more expensive than books purchased online, Kuzak said his store is trying to close the gap through purchasing more used books than other universities.
“Sixty-two percent of the books sold this year have been used books,” he said. “The average [college bookstore] is less than 30 percent.”
The NACS said that campus bookstores only make 4.5 cents for every dollar of a new textbook sold.
Richard Davies, a representative for the online bookstore AbeBooks, sees his company’s larger inventory and lower prices as the reason some students make the extra effort to buy online.
“The internet is not constrained by walls,” he said. “[The buyer] is able to see huge numbers of used copies and new copies of textbooks.”
Web sites such as AbeBooks allow online buyers and sellers to interact with each other on a global scale to offer better prices on books to consumers.
Davies said the future of online textbook sales is bright due to companies competing in an open market for the money of college students.
“Online prices have been lower than bookstore prices for years,” he said. “Prices on the internet continue to fall even lower due to stiff competition between sellers.”
However they decide to do it, students will have to choose one of the many options since textbooks are required for most classes at NMU.