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College students looking to save on textbook costs

| Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003

College students with tight budgets are searching for alternatives to shelling out big bucks for books.

They can save money -- mostly by avoiding campus bookstores and shopping on the Internet. By logging on to Web sites like Half.com , Amazon.com and textbookx.com , they can sometimes luck out on good deals. The Trib p.m. compared prices of five college textbooks, and found that shopping online can save savvy students a few dollars to double-digit dollars.

Duquesne University freshman Aaron Wheeler bought all except one of his textbooks online this semester at a Web site called abebooks.com . He snagged a $100 biology book for $15.

"I could take a guess and say I saved $300 this semester," he said.

Others say online book shopping wastes time.

Ben Tilton, a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University, usually buys from students who previously took the same classes.

"I still look online, but I've been able to get comparable prices from other students," he said.

Tilton points out another advantage to buying from students: no shipping costs or waiting.

The College Board of the National Association of College Stores reported that student expenses for books and supplies ranged from $727 to $807 during the 2002-03 academic year.

The association also reported that 3.5 percent of students shop for books at textbook Web sites and even fewer shop at general retail Web sites.

Barbara Potanko, textbook manager at Duquesne University's bookstore, said she has not noticed a significant drop in textbook sales since the birth of online book buying.

Publishers set the costs and the bookstores set the profit margin, she said.

"If it costs us $80 we sell it for $114," she said.

"We ask instructors to send in requests early so we can look for used books, which are usually 25 percent cheaper."

Brian Jacobs, president of Akademos Inc., the Norwalk, Conn.-based company which runs textbookx.com , said buying textbooks online is not a substitution for bookstores, but an alternative.

"For the price-conscious student though, there's no alternative," he said.

Jacobs started the Web site in 1999 and said sales have grown substantially since. Students also can sell their books through the Web site.

Online booksellers have lower expenses than regular bookstores do, that's why students may find bargains online, Jacobs said.

Potanko cautions students who shop for books online.

"I have seen some students stuck because they got a book online and had the wrong edition or the instructor changed the requirements," she said.

Additional Information:

Shopping around

Trib p.m. compared prices of some common college textbooks to see where students can save big bucks. A tip to avoid hassles later: Use the International Standard Book Number to search for books. The book number identifies the title, author and edition.

'MLA Handbook,' Sixth Edition, Joseph Gibaldi and Phyllis Franklin, Modern Language Association of America

Pitt: $19.95
Amazon.com: $17; $3.99 shipping
Half.com: $15.91; $3.25 shipping
Textbookx.com: $16.39; $3.58 shipping

'Psychology,' Seventh Edition, John W. Santrock, McGraw Hill

Pitt: $96
Amazon.com: $102.25; $3.99 shipping
Half.com: $76.99; $3.25 shipping
Textbookx.com: $62.82; $3.58 shipping

'The Twentieth Century: A Brief History,' Richard Goff, McGraw Hill

Duquesne University: $57.15
Amazon.com: $56.80; $3.99 shipping
Textbookx.com: $49.38; $3.58 shipping

'Biology,' Sixth Edition, Campbell and Reece, Pearson Higher Education

Pitt: $90
Amazon.com: $121; $3.99 shipping
Half.com: $68.09; $3.25 shipping
Textbookx.com: $112.04; $3.58 shipping

'Probability & Statistics,' DeGroot and Schervish, Addison Wesley

Carnegie Mellon University: $110
Amazon.com: $107; $3.99
Textbookx.com: $96.03; $3.58

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