Saturday, February 05, 2005

Buy online for BIG SAVINGS on Textbooks

In the orientations for both of my classes last week I mentioned that textbooks could be found at the East Campus Bookstore for the Economics 201 and 202 students and at the Northwest or West Campus Bookstores for the Economics 200 students. You can also order the books online at and have the book delivered to any campus bookstore.

Books can also be purchased online from other vendors. Like markets for many other goods and services, the college textbook market, both new and used, is being revolutionized by the Internet. In the past professors and textbook committees would select the textbooks to use and the campus bookstore would order a sufficient supply of each text requested. At the end of the semester the bookstore would buy the books back at a discount and either re-sell them on campus the next semester or sell them to dealers who would attempt to resell them at other colleges. The limited market, shipping costs and constant requests for updated editions added to the publishers' costs. However, the relative lack of competition outside of the campus bookstore and the guaranteed customer base (students had no choice but to buy the textbook or drop the course) allowed the publishers to recover their costs and have a guaranteed profit.

The internet is changing all of this. Instead of a collection of small local markets, the internet is creating a global market for textbooks with students having access to numerous vendors throughout the world. A simple search using the book's title or, even better, the book's ISBN number will yield dozens of competing sellers all offering the same book (either new or used) at varying prices.

To buy a textbook on the Internet simply locate the book's ISBN number (usually found on the title page and, on many books, the back cover as well). Then go to Half.Com, eBay, Amazon.Com or any of the numerous other sales sites and search for the books you want. When you find a book for the price you want, register with the site and place your order. Most sites will accept payment via a credit card, PayPal or an electronic payment from your checking account. Many vendors will also accept payment via a paper check sent through the U.S. Mail but usually will not ship the book until the check has been received and cleared by your bank.

You can also go to search sites like or www.ISBN.NU. Instead of you visiting various sites to search for the book, these sites will instantly search numerous sites and display a list of locations where the book is offered. They will also show the quantities available from each vendor at each of the sites as well as the quantity each vendor is offering, the prices asked by each vendor, whether the vendor is offering new or used copies and the location of the vendor (this can be important since the more distant the vendor the longer and more expensive the shipping).

Selling your book is just as easy. Simply create an account at a site such as Half.Com, eBay, Amazon.Com or one of the numerous other sites. Then enter the details of your book – the title, author, edition, ISBN number along with a brief description of the condition of the book. Most will let you include a scanned picture of the book and some, like Half.Com, will even provide a picture of more common books at no extra charge. Some, like eBay, have a small listing fee and a limited listing duration. All charge a small commission on the sale as well as other small fees depending upon the site. It is the seller's responsibility to ship the book to the buyer via the means promised in the listing. Half.Com (a division of eBay), where I sell books, allows users to list books for free, provides free photos of the book's cover, allows books to remain on the site until it is sold or the seller cancels the listing and provides suggestions on pricing. When a book is sold Half.Com gives the seller a small credit for shipping (which is usually less than the actual shipping cost) and deducts a small commission from the proceeds. Half.Com collects the sales price from the buyer and either electronically transfers the net proceeds to the seller's checking account or mails the seller a check.

On a personal note, my daughter is a full time student at Pima Community College and I have been purchasing her books online for the past two semesters. We have had no problems as they have been shipped promptly and all have been in good condition. I estimate that her book costs have been one third to one half of what we would have paid if she had brought the books used from the bookstore (and some of the ones we have purchased have been new but their online price was significantly less than the used price at the bookstore). Since I go online and sell her books at the end of the semester we generate additional savings which drive our out of pocket book costs down further.

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