Used books and online resources ease financial burden

By BenitaZepeda

At the start of each semester, students are bombarded with the challenges of getting back into the swing of college life. One of these challenges is the financial burden of buying textbooks for classes.

The high cost of textbooks is something that students are all too familiar with. However, this semester Columbia’s bookstore has seen a 5.6 percent increase in the number of used books available to students. Online resources could be a cost-saving alternative for students buying texts.

Ann Marie Pausha, retail manager of the  Columbia bookstore, said that there have been shifts in textbook costs.

“It varies per title,” Pausha said. “If the title goes into a new edition, it will affect the cost and what we can offer for the used text options.”

Currently, 4.5 percent of the books available in the bookstore are used

texts, Pausha said.

Many students have decided to use online Web sites such as or the book rental site to purchase their texts. Pausha said the bookstore is aware of this fact and the increase in used textbooks is an attempt to draw students back into the campus store.

“We really push the used-book savings that can happen for our students,” Pausha said. “We’re here on campus. You know you’re getting the right book at the right time and the right place versus having to pay for the shipping and not being sure if you are even going to get the book.”

She also said the bookstore will see a change once the Higher Education Opportunity and Affordability Act goes into effect in 2010.

This act requires publishers to make the pricing, edition history and materials more readily available to faculty. This could cause a future shift in sales because it allows faculty to be more cognizant of the titles they select for their courses, which would help ease the financial burden on students.

Kim Hale, head of Library Marketing Outreach and Special Initiatives, reminds students that Columbia’s library also has resources and course materials available to students.

“The textbooks that we get that are used in classes are generally purchased through faculty requests,” Hale said. “We realize how expensive textbooks are, so we encourage students to talk to their instructors to have them request the textbooks be purchased and available on reserve.”

The textbooks on reserve are available for students to use in the library only.

Pat Hogan, a second year audio arts and acoustics major, said he bought a few books at the bookstore, but if they were more than $20, he would check online for the titles.

“Nine times out of 10 I found the book cheaper online by at least $30,” he said.  “There was a book that was $89 at the bookstore, used, and I got it for $30 off the Internet with shipping.”

Some students have voiced opinions about having books made available to rent online, which Hale said is something that the college has not discussed but could bebeneficial.

“As far as electronic textbooks, that is something that depends on the publishers,” Hale said.  “It sounds like a good idea, but we would have to look at how that might go.”

Hogan said he thinks it would be helpful to students if it were possible for the college to make textbooks available online.

“If you were able to print them out, I think that’s a great idea,” Hogan said. “I think it would be better to rent offline than to spend $100 on a book.”

Griffin Henricks, a junior radio major, said he got lucky this semester as far as books he needed for classes, but has utilized the bookstore in previous semesters.

“Books are overpriced in general,” Henricks said. “I’m a radio major, so 100 bucks for a book with a bunch of headphones in it is pretty bogus. You buy a book for 100 bucks, you’re lucky if you get 50 back for it. I try to avoid buying books all together.”

Despite the high costs of textbooks, Henricks said he wouldn’t be a fan of having texts available online.

“I commute up here, so I like having my textbook on the train,” Henricks said.  “I think a lot of people don’t have constant computer access.”

Although there is some student support for online resources, Pausha wants students to remember the college bookstore is still a great source for books.

“We try to be as readily available to the students as possible,” Pausha said.  “We’re doing a lot.”