Bookstore offers ways to beat high book prices

Student Writer

text booksA line extends to the back of the store, as students’ arms are packed with necessary gear and anxious remarks about the hit to their wallets.

These are all things that can be heard at the start of each new semester in university bookstores across the country.

In a recent survey at Northwestern Oklahoma State University conducted for this story, 15 students with various majors shared their personal experiences when buying college textbooks.

Nicole Marema, an early childhood education major from McPherson, Kansas, said she chooses not to use the campus bookstore “because they are generally too expensive.”

She is among the 80 percent of students surveyed who said they have bought their textbooks from other sources in the past.

Marema, like many students, buys her books online for discounted prices. Others said they utilize online shopping when the bookstore is out of a specific textbook that they need.

Brieanna McClure, a freshman psychology major from Alva, bought her first college textbooks at Northwestern’s campus bookstore, where she worked for part of last fall semester.

Like Marema, McClure said she has decided to utilize the Internet to find a “very used” book for a more reasonable price.

For some students surveyed, simply renting their textbooks instead of buying them helped to support their budget. For others, buying used books and price matching were favorable options.

The majority of the students surveyed knew of the price matching option at Northwestern’s bookstore; however, only four students said they used the system in the past.

Students can “find their textbook at a cheaper price online, print a copy of the page as proof and then turn it in to the campus book store,” McClure said. “Northwestern can then match the price and beat it by 10 percent.”

Books eligible for price matching include new and used books, but not digital books. This works with companies like Amazon, Chegg and Barnes & Noble.

Fliers with more information can be picked up at the Northwestern campus bookstore.

Even with price matching, many students are frustrated with the price of textbooks, which has risen 1,041 percent since 1977, according to Ben Popken in an NBC News article from 2015.

According to one of Popken’s resources, prices keep rising because students are “captive consumers…who have to buy whatever books they’re assigned.” Popken’s research, however, did not include buying used books or renting.

Also interviewed in Popken’s article was a University of  Michigan’s professor of economics, Mark Perry, who said, “College textbook prices are increasing way more than parent’s ability to pay for them.”

Perry noted an instance where a specialized chemistry textbook cost $400 at his university bookstore.

Students at Northwestern have also reported similar prices.

“I spent nearly $400 on textbooks earlier in my college career,” Marema said. “Now that I am in classes for my major, the textbooks are getting [even more] crazy expensive.”

McClure also said the prices were too high, and when she used the price match option in the 2015 fall semester, she saved more than $300.

All of the students surveyed agreed that textbook prices are unfair.        To help offset the costs, many students only rent their textbooks or sell them back after they finish the class for which the book was required.

Michelle Penner is the team leader for NWOSU’s bookstore. Penner is also a graduate student at Northwestern who uses the bookstore to buy her textbooks for class.

Penner said she believes in buying books, rather than renting. “I have almost as many books at home as we do in the bookstore,” she said.

Still, Penner, Marema and McClure all agreed that the prices of textbooks were high.

Something else the three had in common were experiences with buying expensive textbooks and then never using them.

All of students surveyed said they had bought a required textbook for their college classes and then never used the book. The majority of students surveyed said this has happened to them a couple of times while a number confirmed that they “very often” had this problem with their classes.