Surfing for textbooks: wave of the future or dangerous waters?

Caroline Laska

Kevin Hodar, senior political science major, helps find books for students during the back to school rush at DuBois Bookstore. Manager Hal DuBois said the bookstore is open for extended hours this week (9 a.m. to 7 p.m, today; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday), bu

Credit: Ron Soltys

Rising text book costs. Long lines. Limited funds.

For these and additional reasons, many students stray from buying books at a traditional bookstore and spring for the alternative of online shopping.

Shopping for books online is not new; however, the trend is becoming increasingly popular with university students. Book buyers can often find better pricing on sites like and than they can at a campus store. Selling books online is equally trendy.

Some students think selling back books at the bookstore can be a hassle. Sometimes a book’s buyback price is drastically less than what it was purchased for. This happens when the professor is not using the same text the following semester.

“We cannot always take back everyone’s book,” said Stephanie Decost, University Bookstore manager at Kent State Trumbull campus. “We buy back all the books we can for the next semester. Sometimes, however, a professor will tell us after the buyback period that they are using the same textbook and by this time it is too late.”

According to the National Association of College Stores, “Used textbooks require more handling and incur more operating expenses. They also present a higher risk to the store. Unlike new textbooks, used textbooks can’t be returned if they’re not sold. There’s also a chance that a new edition of the textbook may make them obsolete.”

Online purchases may not have customer service, but if a book cannot be sold back, the initial cost of the book is cheaper than at bookstores.

“I love to shop for books online,” junior biology major Lauren Krebs said. “I always find better deals, and it’s easy to do at home.”

Although online textbook shopping may sound ideal, local bookstores warn students of the risks they face.

“All sales are final at,” said University Bookstore manager Mike Marquardt. “Some professors change their textbook right before the class begins and students who bought books online are stuck with a book they don’t want. Students sometimes also get the wrong text shipped to them and can do nothing about it.”

Local bookstores often offer some kind of incentive for shopping the old-fashioned way. The DuBois bookstore offers “one stop shopping,” where a student can set his or her schedule down and have a peer pick the books out. DuBois and the University Bookstore also offer a refund for books if the professor changes a book at the last minute.

“Here at DuBois, we’d rather buy back used books from the students rather than a wholesaler,” DuBois manager Hal DuBois said. “This is why we can sell back used books at a lower price and the students can get cash back when they are done.”

Contact student finance reporter Caroline Laska at [email protected].