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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Much More than Pocket Change: Online Book Bargains Add Up

    College education, even at a public university, comes with a hefty price. The cost of tuition, boarding, transportation, even the application process itself, forces students to pay thousands of dollars for the simple right to say: ‘I’m going to college.’ Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop there.

    The Statesman reported on January 26, 2006 about the exorbitant prices of books, ‘from a baseline of 250 dollars to the upper reaches of 750 dollars per semester,’ depending on the number of credits taken. In the span of 20 months ever since, retail prices for books remain at the same extraordinary highs.

    Data from the Faculty Student Association concerning the Barnes & Noble affiliated University Bookstore shows an increase in the revenue from used books by over 200% from $324,353.28 in the 2001-2002 academic year to $652,357.00 in the 2006-2007 academic year.

    According to Angela Agnello, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Faculty Student Association, used books at the University Bookstore sell at the relatively standard rate of 75% retail value. These are used books that have been purchased from students at 50% retail value through routine end-of-semester buy back programs. However, 50% buy back is only offered for books that will be used by professors in following semesters in the same edition. If for some reason, a professor decides to use a different book, or if a new edition of the book comes out, Agnello stated, the book value can drop to 0%.

    So given all numbers and percentages, is this the best a student can do? Purchasing books for 75% and hoping for a decent resale value is a start but it is not enough for some students.

    Emily Gover, a junior, was very positive about her experience with, an affiliate of Ebay, Inc., which provides individuals with the ability to buy and sell their books and other items for prices they choose. A cumulative review of found at shows that 464 reviewers cumulatively gave 4 out of 5 star rating on the basis of ease of ordering, customer service, on-time delivery, and selection of books.

    Gover commented, ‘I do buy my books through, and I have since my second semester at school. For the most part the savings are great, depending on the quality of the books you buy, but the most I saved was probably $50 on one textbook that came in great condition.’

    Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, also responded about, ‘It’s basically a forum between many users so any return attempt has to be agreed upon by the seller not a company. But if the book is really damaged and clearly not in the condition it was bought in, then [the company] can intervene if the seller is unwilling to go through with the return. It’s a lengthy process to ‘file a claim’ but it’s effective. You don’t always get what you think you paid for but at least you save a lot of money….it’s a lot better than feeling guilty about buying a book at full price.’

    It became necessary to investigate further, if could actually provide opportunities for savings.

    Fundamentals of Biochemistry, a textbook, by Voet, Voet and Pratt 2nd edition for BIO 361, costs 171.45 dollars from the University Bookstore to buy brand new, with the accompanying study guide. On, this same book was available in brand new condition for less than 50% of its original value, 70.00 dollars, as an individual book. While this bargain price did not last very long, one can still find bargains as such from actual booksellers. You may currently purchase a brand new copy of this book, Fundamentals of Biochemistry, for less than 140 dollars from actual booksellers ‘thebookpros’ and ‘a1books_express,’ sellers with track records of over 90,000 previous transactions with an approval ratings above 95%.

    Used copies of Fundamentals of Biochemistry are currently available at different levels of quality from items ‘Like New’ to items of ‘Acceptable’ quality with price ranges from around 135 dollars down to 100 dollars, approximately at 40% decrease retail price. The used price for this book is set at the University Bookstore for 128.60 dollars. Online purchasing from the Barnes & Noble website ( also allows for purchasing of used books based on quality, a level of flexibility that is not offered at the University Bookstore.

    When asked about the potential savings for students, several managers at the University Bookstore declined to comment. However, Bill Offerman, Manager of Matthews Medical Books and Uniforms at the Health Science Center, did come forth. Offerman stated, ‘ is a great site. I love it myself, but it only can be depended on to a point. Being able to look at, leaf through, and inspect the condition of a product is paramount when your classwork may be depending on it. Often students tell me that they get old editions or books without CD’s when they buy student to student. If this happens, then what? Returns are unlikely and you then have to go buy the book again.’

    It was made apparent to Offerman that there is, in fact, a return procedure on Offerman, however, continued to comment on his experiences with and the potential problems students might face on the site.

    He replied, ‘I have used it many times. Specifically, it seems to be more complicated to obtain textbooks with factors such as edition, packages, media included and how timely the shipment is from someone who is not in business but rather is just looking to unload unneeded items. Items becoming obsolete due to newer items being available or being replaced with an alternate is a factor which pertains to most goods. The computer you are using to email, the monitor, the software, and even the desk or chair you sit at will be replaced and discarded thus losing most; if not all value. Books are no different.’

    Another, relatively new site, aimed at the bargain hunter crowd is, slightly different from in that it allows for price comparing between available books on multiple websites., created in 2006, however, revolves around the same idea of allowing students the opportunity to buy and sell books at better rates.

    A quick review of Fundamentals of Biochemistry at this site shows its availability in its newer 3rd edition at and in the price range of 80.00 to 90.00 dollars. The retail price for the 3rd edition of Fundamentals of Biochemistry is 134.95 dollars.

    Concerning the prospect of selling one’s book, advertises in its ‘About Us’ section as a site built by college students for the purpose of spending less money. The site also boasts the ability of sellers to have students from their own university as a primary target
    audience, potentially eliminating the cost associated with shipping.

    With all the evidence for lower prices, and increased flexibility, available outside the campus, the Faculty Student Association representative Angela Agnello, did comment about the benefits of setting up a Bookstore Campus Account as a zero interest credit card. Books can be purchased via the Bookstore Campus Account by individuals who are waiting for financial aid.

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