Campus bookstore vs. online shopping: The showdown

by Alex Solari, Staff Writer

I’m sure most of you have purchased textbooks for this semester, which is always the worst part of a new school year.

Spending hundreds of dollars on books that you know you won’t care about in three months is incredibly frustrating. But, as a college student, this is a sad reality, and I hope this article makes the process a little easier.

There are three main ways textbooks are bought and sold: buying/renting books from the campus bookstore, buying/renting books from online retailers, and buying/renting e-books that you can access through your phone or computer.

For the most part, if you can find an e-book online it will be cheaper than the other two options. For some, affordability is the most important, and they go for e-books every time. If this is you, then you’ve figured out your best option.

But for myself and many others, looking at a book on a screen is impossible because of all the distractions in the way.

Every time I’ve gotten an e-book, I end up on Facebook, YouTube, and literally anything to get me away from reading. Before you choose this option, ask yourself honestly: will you really focus while using this book?

The second option you have is to buy or rent textbooks from sites like Amazon, Chegg, eBay, etc. These textbooks are often cheaper than what you would find at the campus bookstore, so searching for your books online before going to the bookstore is a smart decision.

The main downside to this option is that these sites could always send you the wrong edition, or without the access code you need. This can cause much more of a headache than if you simply bought the book from the campus bookstore.

However, if you trust the source that’s selling you the book, buying from the Internet may be right for you.

You can also rent books from the Internet, which in theory is a great option since this is even cheaper than buying the book online. But, at the end of the semester, Amazon sends you an email that the book is due back. Then, you can’t find the box that you have to send it back in, you’re freaking out and you get charged the full amount for the book since you weren’t able to send it back in time.

For disorganized people like me, this is something that very easily can happen, and has almost happened to me. If you are organized and don’t plan to use the book after your class is over, then renting from the Internet may be for you.

Finally, there is the option of the campus bookstore. This, as you may have guessed, is my favorite option. Admittedly, though, I have a bias since I’m an English major, and renting paperbacks is usually cheaper in the bookstore than anywhere else.

In my experience, renting used books is really the only affordable option at the bookstore since it’s usually cheaper to actually buy books from online sources.

Even if you are a major like Nursing or Engineering and never use paperbacks, I would suggest at least giving the campus bookstore a shot. Renting some books in the campus store is still significantly more expensive than online options, but sometimes there is a pleasant surprise.

This semester I paid $3 to rent a used book. Now that’s a bargain. However, if you feel you may need to use these books again, and would like to keep it, then the bookstore may not be the best option for you.

As much as I’d like to tell you there is one foolproof way to get textbooks, this is not the reality. If you are more concerned about affordability, I would say e-books are your best option.

If you are looking for a physical copy of a book but are looking for your most affordable option, I would say buying or renting from the Internet is the right choice for you. And, finally, if you are a major that uses mostly paperbacks and novels, or you are looking for the most convenient option, then the campus bookstore is likely the best for you.

The more books you have to buy or rent for classes, the more you understand what option is best for you. My best advice is to explore your options and see what works. And the most important tip of all: do not buy or rent a book until a professor explicitly says you need to use it.

Happy saving, everyone!


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