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Students buy texts on internet

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Grumblings about the prices of textbooks at the campus bookstores at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are so common they are decidedly cliché. This semester, many students continue to turn to growing numbers of Internet sites in search of better deals. The impact of online book retailing on campus textbook sales remains unclear. Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore director Sally Wiatrowski knows online sites are becoming increasingly popular, but believes the bookstore is competitive. “We search for used books first and have the buyback program to pass savings along to the students and remain price-competitive,” Wiatrowski said. Wiatrowski credited the rise of online sales to students’ Internet savvy. She also noted new textbook prices are set by publishers “who are publishing new editions to undercut the used-book market.” Saint Mary’s Bookstore director Mike Hicks recognizes the competition and is interested in getting the students the books they need at a reasonable price. “Some books are over-priced, and when that happens we’ll recommend students to look for a better price, but students have to realize that online they may not get the right book, especially when a new edition comes out,” he said.Both directors stressed the importance of faculty in the textbook buying process, stating the sooner professors tell the stores which materials students will need for their classes, the better it will be for the students. “We have to facilitate the faculty, and order the books the professors want,” Hicks said. Professor Sara Maurer, of the English department, said she understands how costly books can be, and always tries to take that into consideration. “I look on Amazon.com,” she said. “I don’t always go with the cheapest because sometimes they are poorly edited. If we have an anthology, I try to have the students read much of it so they don’t waste money.” Professor Michael Hildreth, of the physics department, noted that while cost is taken into account, most science books cost about the same. “We don’t have a lot of space to maneuver,” he said. “We go for the best quality textbooks.” If cases like that of freshmen Erin Burns become more prevalent, the bookstores could have reason for concern. Burns decided to turn to the online market this semester after the Notre Dame Bookstore wouldn’t give her any money to buy back her chemistry book. After registering for her spring classes, Burns compared the prices on the bookstore’s website to those on Half.com, the textbook-selling wing of eBay. She wound up buying four books through the site, and even offset the cost by placing some of her own books for sale. She had much praise for the process.”These books were in great condition, all of them actually new with no highlighting or writing,” Burns said. “The sellers are given ratings, and this allows you to see if you are buying from a reliable person.” Erin calculates she saved over $300 by using the Internet this semester and plans to encourage other students to pursue this option in the future. Another viable option for textbook shoppers is NDbay, a website designed to serve Notre Dame students, though it is in no way connected to the University. The site is run by Elite Technology Solutions, a company out of Pennsylvania, is entirely free and works as a facilitator of student textbook sales. If a student wants to buy a book, NDbay e-mails both the seller and the buyer with each other’s contact information. The students communicate and arrange a sale. The biggest selling point for NDbay is no shipping fees, which can add up at other web site and cut into the discounts.