Buy the book

By Senitra Horbrook
shorbrook@sjnewsco.com

Typically by the time school starts, tuition has been taken care of and living arrangements have been made, but there is one large expense which often times comes a surprise to college students―textbooks.

College students are spending an average of $475 a semester, according to Gloucester County College Bookstore Manager, Debbie Caizza.

"There's always some sticker shock," said second year student Matt Rickards from Clayton as he searched the shelves for books for his business courses.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than $15 billion will be spent on textbooks this year.

"A lot of students are very surprised when they get here," Caizza said.

Both Gloucester County College and Rowan University bookstores offer orientation classes to incoming students and parents to warn them of textbooks costs and offer money saving strategies.

"The number one thing is how you get a 75 percent discount," said Eileen Morrow, bookstore director at Rowan.

A textbook that costs $100 brand new can usually be bought used for 25 percent off at the beginning of the semester, making it $75. Then at the end of the semester, if the bookstore knows that book will be used again, students can sell it back for half price, giving the student $50 back. The total cost of that textbook winds up being $25 or 75 percent off the original new price of $100.
Jenny Schminke, of West Deptford, looks over a few books she needs to purchase for her classes in the upcoming fall semester.

"For every book bought during buyback, two people benefit―the one who sells in December and the one who buys in January," Morrow said.

Many students also turn to the Internet for textbooks.

"We get a lot of people come in to get the ISBN number so they can search online," Caizza said.

College bookstore warn students to be careful when buying from unknown dealers on the Internet. Students have to make sure they are buying the correct edition, watch out for expensive shipping and handling charges and have to deal with the hassle of sending it back if something goes wrong.

However, there are plenty of reputable Internet options for students who just don't want to set foot in their school bookstore.

"Most of us in the college store field offer our own Web site," Morrow said. "We tell (students) take advantage of ordering quickly from the Web site in August. Shop early. Used books do go quickly. Supply usually doesn't meet demand."

Other students prefer shopping at the bookstore itself because of the convenience and they know for sure they are getting the right books.

"It's usually pretty easy. I always buy from the bookstore," said sophomore Kayligh Root of West Deptford, who expected to spend $400 this semester for books as part of Teachers 2000 program.
Another way to save money on textbooks is by buying them digitally. With a digital textbook, students can download the information and underline, highlight, search text, take notes and print it. At Gloucester County College, about 30 titles are available digitally. "Essentials of Management" sells for $106.65 new, but as a digital book it is $63.99.

"I have not seen many people take advantage of it," Caizza said. "But I have seen more and more students who just live with their computer."

When it comes to prices, technical, math and science related books tend to be the most expensive.

"Often the price tag is deceiving for a couple reasons―those great big science or math books are for several semesters," Morrow said.

Add-ons such as workbooks, Web access and time-sensitive pins are also driving up textbook costs.

"There's more to a textbook than just paper," Morrow said. "Publishers tell us it's the faculty who are demanding these ancillary materials which are adding to the price of the book."

The life of a textbook is typically two to three years, which limits the amount of time it can be resold and bought used.

"That's because (the publishers) want to get the most recent addition in the student's hands," Morrow said.

A student's financial situation can greatly affect their decision to buy a new textbook if a used one is also available. Gloucester County College sophomore and history major Zachary Taylor of Franklinville expects to spend between $500 and $1000 this semester for books. He suggests buying new for those that can afford it.

"I prefer new books," Taylor said. "If it's used, some pages may be ripped out. With a new book you get more out of it."

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Date Published: Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 01:00