Every quarter, Cal Poly students face a familiar challenge: buying pricey textbooks as economically as possible.
A typical textbook costs more than $100 at El Corral Bookstore, with the more expensive books costing up to $200. Altogether, textbooks and class supplies run the average college student $1,137 per year, according to collegeboard.com.
To keep this figure down, many students turn to the Internet. Materials engineering senior Alex Stanley switched to buying books online during his sophomore year when he discovered that it was cheaper.
“Freshman year I was new into the system,” Stanley said. “It was like, ‘Ah, you have to buy them at the bookstore.’”
By his sophomore year, however, Stanley said he switched to buying older editions of textbooks online because they don’t vary much from newer editions, and the cost is much lower.
“I generally find an older edition which really isn’t very different as far as content but the price has been dropped down to a dollar,” Stanley said.
There are a myriad of different websites selling textbooks online, but at Cal Poly, certain websites rank far ahead of the others.
Stanley says he generally turns to Abebooks.com, when he’s looking for a book. The name, Stanley says, reminds him of Honest Abe.
“(It’s) like they’re charging honest prices,” Stanley said.
Abebooks.com sells a variety of books, with a special page for buying new and used textbooks, as well as selling old textbooks. The website boasts that students can save approximately 50 to 90 percent off list prices.
Agriculture communications sophomore Sebastian Silveira said he uses Amazon to buy most of his textbooks. Silveira uses Amazon not only because he can find most of the books he needs, but also because he can get books delivered quickly, which can be a big concern when buying books online, especially with a quarter system.
Silveira makes use of the site’s “Amazon Prime” service, or free two-day shipping, and next-day shipping at $3.99 an item.
“If you need that, time’s not an issue,” Silveira said.
Political science sophomore Alexis Howell goes one step farther in the online textbook market by not only buying, but also selling her own used textbooks on Half.com. Howell said she usually gets 50 to 75 percent of the original price of her textbooks when she sells them through Half.com.
For Howell, buying used textbooks online can be a form of good karma.
“I want people to buy my textbooks, so I’ll buy theirs,” Howell said.
She also likes getting used books because sometimes they contain helpful answers for upcoming course material.
“I like the highlighting because it makes it easier,” Howell said.
Students aren’t the only ones turning to the Internet for textbooks. Economics professor Kathryn Marshall has been using the online textbook website Aplia.com for several years now.
The website gives students access to an online textbook, and it assigns and grades homework assignments for $90 a student, a little less than most textbooks. Marshall said she chose the website for the added homework component, which makes the web service worth the cost despite the fact that students don’t have a textbook to keep or re-sell.
“It’s either slightly cheaper or comparable,” Marshall said.
Marshall, who was referred to Aplia.com by a colleague, said she foresees more and more classes turning to online textbooks and coursework.
“That’s the only way for universities to keep their costs low — through online education,” Marshall said.
But not every student has jumped on the Internet textbook bandwagon just yet. Some, like anthropology sophomore Jenna Mendes, still prefer to buy their books the old-fashioned way.
Mendes said she usually puts off buying her books until the first week of the quarter, to see if she really needs all the recommended books for a particular class.
By the time she knows which books she’s going to buy, Mendes said, “It’s like, ‘I need them now!’”