Friday, November 6, 2009

Giving the Bookstore the Finger

Recently I found myself in an uncomfortable position, waiting in line to get ripped off at the University of Massachusetts Bookstore. After three semesters in college, I began to realize how much money both the bookstore and textbook publishers are making off students. I bought a Nutrition textbook for a hundred and twenty five dollars, the bookstore offered to buy it back at a measly twenty five dollars, according to them it was the software and not the book that was “valuable”. My software was sitting on my desk collecting dust so I tried to return it but I received the same price for it. Next semester I returned to find the same textbook which was “not valuable” selling for a hundred dollars used. It blows my mind that the bookstore blatantly rips off students. They pay next to nothing for returned books than next semester sell the books used at a barley discounted price.
Not only are we students getting ripped off by the bookstore, but we also are being ripped off by textbook publishers. It is frustrating to see how many editions of books are constantly being printed. Often times chapters are simply rearranged and new introductions and secondary reading are added. Basically what it means, it that the publisher gets to make new editions and charge more money for what is basically the same book. As we are dealing with higher fees and feeling the sting from the economic meltdown it is important for students to have other resources for getting textbooks. I have had four years to learn some of the best resources for buying books. From the local bookstore, to websites such as eBay, face book, and Amazon, and even renting; there are plenty of ways to save money while give the finger to both the textbook publishers and the bookstore.
The first step to saving money is to plan ahead. At the end of your semester find out what books you need. Plan to have your books before the semester starts. During the summer you can go to the University website, enter class number and department and get a list of books needed. Just to be on the safe side try emailing professors for an accurate booklist. It is also important to leave yourself four to six weeks to receive books, as some websites that offer free shipping take a while to deliver books. Planning ahead is important as it will allow students the time and opportunity to use a variety of sources to save money.
There are a variety of options to consider when looking for books one of the most obvious and most cost effective resources is the library, the best part it is free. Use Umass Boston library, your local library and the Boston Public Library. You don’t need to live in Boston to get a Boston public library card; you just have to prove you are a student at an area university so all you need is your school id. It is a great resource and also has rare and old editions of many books in addition to their large collection. Check to see what editions and how many copies each library has. One benefit of using all three libraries is having more options and if you are using the book for a long period of times you can rotate from one library to another; or you can find a specific edition you are looking for. Using our school library also is beneficial as students have access to a wide variety of libraries in Massachusetts and other states through interlibrary loan. This means students have many options to finding a large variety of books.
Another great resource is local bookstores. There are plenty of locally owned bookstores located just a train ride away from Umass Boston such as Porter Square Books, Lorem Ipsum Books, and The Brattle Book Shop. Some of the best reasons for using local bookstores included getting personalized service, also finding rare and used editions like at Brattle book shop which has a long history in Boston. Using local bookstore allows students and local businesses to have a mutually beneficial experience which contributes to both students and to the local economy.
The third and best option to use is the internet which has a wealth of places to shop for books; there are obvious websites such as Amazon and, both have a lot of used books. Other online resources to consider include facebook where you can find other students and buy the books directly from the student rather than at the bookstore. Ebay is another great option especially for the expensive textbooks. You can often find brand new editions for half the price of the bookstore. The final online resource to consider is renting textbooks, not only is this cost effective you also don’t have to worry about trying to resell books at the end of the semester. Websites to consider included,, and, make sure to look around and compare prices to get the best deal.
Using all of these options is very cost effective I know from personal experience. As my first few semesters I was spending between six to eight hundred dollars on books. Now I usually spend two to four hundred on books cutting my price in half. There is nothing I hate more than being ripped off. Students need to be smart and spend their money wisely especially in this economy. Following these rules, planning ahead, using free resources such as libraries, and using local bookstores in addition to internet options are all easy and effective ways to save money. In addition to saving some much need cash there is the added personal joy giving the finger to the bookstore and textbook publishing companies after all they have been doing the same to students for years.


  1. I capitalized "Finger" for you, B.

  2. Well said. Also, I've found that I can locate teacher review or international editions for prices far cheaper than the US student price. Although the covers might be different, the content is usually the same. Through this, I tend to keep all my textbook expenses to about $100 per semester. Although, if the class does quizzes or questions from the book, it might get risky using the international editions. Sometimes the content (e.g. images, questions or chapter orders) might differ. However, I haven't had a real problem with this.

  3. Don't say I didn't tell you so M. And the people writing the books half the time are the teachers. It's called doubling down. '-'. -V