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Book buyers look to new options for deals

Luisa Cabrera | Friday, January 20, 2006

While many returning students packed the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore with seemingly endless lines during the past week, some opted to buy their books elsewhere. After semesters of purchasing costly books while receiving minimal money back for the used copy after finals, students say they are exploring less expensive ways of buying books as well as buy back programs with better incentives – despite a new Bookstore rewards program.

Senior Mary Catherine Cimino used Amazon.com for the first time to purchase and sell her books this semester. Though she had to wait for her books to be shipped, Cimino felt that it was worth the wait.

“The tradeoff is that it takes a couple of days to receive the books, but it is worth it for the amount of money saved,” she said. “I also sold many textbooks online that I had not been able to sell back to the bookstore. In the past two days, I have made $200 just on selling books.”

Students are using Web sites such as Betterworldbook.com, Amazon.com, EBay.com and Half.com (owned by EBay), which offer competitive prices on the same new and used books sold at the bookstore.

In December 2002, two Notre Dame then-sophomores launched NDBay.com, an online textbook-trading Web site designed to help Notre Dame students save money while purchasing books. Student body president Dave Baron said student government purchased NDBay.com in April 2005 from its creators in an attempt to alleviate high book prices. The site was placed under the care of the Student Business Board, but it encountered significant technical problems and had to be taken down.

“We are continuing to pursue the issue by working with OIT and the new InsideND portal to provide the book exchange, in a format similar to the new online Rider Board that has achieved quick success,” Baron said.

Freshman Meredith Rowland agreed that using other sources would help her save money, yet she acknowledged that the bookstore’s location is to its advantage.

“I feel that in the long run, I can save money on buying books from other sources,” Rowland said. “What you can’t beat is the efficiency of being able to walk across campus and have all your books.”

Sophomore Steven Dias said he prefers to spend more money at the bookstore than have to deal with the hassle of buying books online.

“My motivation for buying books from the bookstore is the relative ease compared to what I feel I would have to do if I bought them online,” Dias said. “I guess I use more money than patience in the process.”

On Jan. 1 the bookstore launched a new rewards program called Bookstore Boomerang Rewards. The program offers one point for every dollar spent in the store and two points for every dollar received for selling books back. Special bonus points are added upon signing up for an account, as well as for purchasing select items throughout the year. Once a student has reached a total of 2,000 points, he or she is awarded a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore or a $20 gift certificate to stores and restaurants such as The Gap, Blockbuster, and Domino’s Pizza.

Bookstore director Sally Wiatrowski said the program was started in order to maintain a loyalty incentive for the customers. The program will help in maintaining the bookstore’s aim to keep the market share on campus and cut the competition as much as possible.

As more inexpensive and satisfactory options become available to students in buying and selling their books, sophomore Mike Hazlebeck doubted the rewards program would have much effect on students’ choices.

“This program is obviously just another ploy by the bookstore to expand their monopoly over milking students out of more money,” Hazlebeck said. “Yes, eventually you might get a couple free pizzas, but in reality you could have saved hundreds of dollars by simply taking a couple hours online or talking to people. The Boomerang program is just another attempt to lure people into paying higher prices.”