Bookstore adds comparison feature online to curb textbook costs

The goal is to have 800 rental titles available by the spring.
Junior Matt Medley reads a textbook purchased from University Bookstore for one of his classes. The bookstore plans on reducing textbook costs by increasing the amount of rentals offered.

Textbooks are a college essential. Students need them to graduate. But this necessity comes at a high cost.

The Open Course Library, a new initiative in Washington, proposed an online library for its students to reconcile the costs. As opposed to going through the hassle of buying and selling back textbooks every semester, students will be given the option to access textbooks, readings and other educational activities online.

Student and Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese said MU is taking strides of its own to cut down the cost of textbooks for students.

“The bookstore implemented a price comparison feature on our website which allows students to compare our prices to other vendors like Amazon,” she said. “We’re finding that the majority of our customers complete the transaction with the bookstore even after comparing, and we continue to find ways to be more competitive in terms of pricing.”

The bookstore also promotes used books as an alternative to paying full price for new books. Froese said used books account for more than 40 percent of bookstore sales. Course packets offer another way for students to save money, Froese said.

“We have a custom publishing department (Mizzou Media) that creates course packets,” she said. “A course packet can be highly cost effective. Instead of requiring multiple books, a professor can select portions of those books and have them included in a course packet.”

Rental is another popular option for students, with more than 23,000 units rented this fall alone. Six-hundred titles are available for rental, and Froese said the bookstore hopes to increase that number to 800 by the spring semester and increase the overall number of books rented.

Students also have their own shortcuts for saving money on books.

“I don’t buy books until I actually need them,” junior Samantha Simpson said. “I’ll put off buying a textbook until I have a homework assignment. I’ve rented textbooks before. Sometimes if the price of renting is the same as the price of buying I’ll just buy the book so I can sell it back at the end of the semester and make money.”

Buying books from websites with discounted prices has also shown to be an alternative.

“Sometimes I try to look for books on, or if I know a person in the class we split the cost of buying the book,” junior Maura Baker said.

Professors are encouraged to keep the same books in their curriculum across semesters, which can pay off for students selling their books back.

“The bookstore routinely encourages faculty to reuse a textbook whenever possible,” Froese said. “Used textbooks offer a solution for students, particularly when faculty get their textbook orders to us prior to buyback. The bookstore is introducing a paperless, online textbook adoption system that will make it much easier for faculty to submit their adoptions. If the bookstore knows that a book will be reused the following semester, students can receive up to 50 percent of the book’s new cost upon sell-back.”

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