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Students benefit from book sales

Justin Tardiff | Friday, January 19, 2007

Long lines, low semester-end refunds and hefty price tags at the Notre Dame Hammes Bookstore regularly frustrate students at the start and end of each semester, despite the convenience of services the store offers.

With the price of a semester’s worth of books tipping the scales at up to several hundred dollars, and the refund on those books being what many describe as a paltry few dollars, many students are finding ways around these issues by taking their business elsewhere. As a first semester freshman, Ellen Rolfes said she “didn’t really know of any other way” to purchase texts, and as a result paid close to $800 at the bookstore in August – a sum she called “ridiculous.”

But when she returned those books to the bookstore through the Buyback program offered at the end of each semester, she was further dismayed.

“I brought five books back (at the end of the semester). One went for $1.50, another for $30 … I ended up keeping the one for $1.50, with the others they wouldn’t take,” she said.

Many students have similar stories and do their best to find the most convenient and reasonable methods for acquiring their textbooks.

Knowing which texts they require in time to employ such other methods – like ordering books online – can be the first obstacle, students say.

But according to the bookstore’s textbook manager Bob Thompson, beginning around Jan. 1, students were able to search and find lists of required books for each course on the bookstore’s website. The bookstore typically makes the textbook listing available in the weeks before the semester begins.

For other students, like senior Ellen Pollock, professors are often an additional resource to find out what books are required, well before the list is posted online.

Pollack said that some of her professors have sent the course syllabus in advance, and in other cases students can contact the professor on their own.

After determining what needs to be purchased, senior Marie Lange looks to online sources like Amazon.com and Half.com, a division of eBay.com.

According to Lange, Half.com is usually cheapest, “even when shipping can cost a lot.”

She has had positive experiences shopping online for books in the past, Lange said.

“Even the books that I’ve bought used, they’re not even really that ‘used’ … they are often quite new,” she said.

And in the one case where Lange didn’t get the book she purchased in the mail, she was able to resolve the issue and receive a prompt refund.

At the end of the semester, Lange said she returns to Half.com to sell her books. While she is responsible for selling and shipping the items, Lange said the benefits outweigh the cost.

Still, others state that the convenience of bookstore services is worth the extra cost.

For junior Allyson Connelly, the bookstore has kept her loyalty thus far, she said.

“It’s convenient; I know they have what I need, and I can get it on time,” she said. Still, she commented, she would like to pursue purchasing and selling her books outside of the bookstore in the future in order to save a little.

Rolfes’ entrepreneurial plans for her textbooks ought to yield her at least a little more than $1.50.

“Instead of giving them back,” she said, “I’ll keep them and sell them to freshmen next year.”