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Davis, California

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Buying and renting textbooks 101

While textbooks are a necessary

albeit expensive

cost of attending college, students at UC Davis have many choices for prices, book conditions and booksellers.

According to the United States Government Accountability Office, first time, full-time students at a four-year university spend an average of $900 per year in textbook costs. Buying used, rented or electronic books are common options for students to reduce costs.

Many students opt to purchase through the UC Davis campus Bookstore. Last year, the store sold nearly 100,000 new books, 91,000 used books and rented 24,000 new/used books.

Jason Lorgan, associate director for the campus bookstore, said an advantage of purchasing through UC Davis is the convenient one-stop shopping.

“We have all the course materials for all of the courses available at UC Davis,” Lorgan said.

Additionally, the Bookstore offers the opportunity for students to charge textbooks to their student accounts. It also accepts refunds during the first week of school, with a 10 percent restocking fee.

Renting textbooks often has a lower upfront cost. Lorgan said the Bookstore expanded its rental program 400 percent from last year due to increased student demand. He also said renting textbooks reduces student risk of devaluation if a new edition is published.

Professors switch editions every few years, so buying a brand new book is sometimes unavoidable. After the quarter is over, however, students can sell back their gently used books online or on-campus.

Because new editions will pay back more than older editions, many students opt to sell books immediately once classes are completed.

Despite a smaller selection than the campus bookstore, Davis Textbooks, an off-campus used and rental bookstore located at 236 A St., is an alternative to the UC Davis Bookstore. Similar to the campus bookstore, textbooks are organized by course name and number.

Shawn Sherali, owner of Davis Textbooks, suggests customers check Davis Textbooks’s prices before buying used at the on-campus bookstore.

“Often, we can beat their prices by [10] to 12 percent and my selling price is cheaper than the rental price [at the campus bookstore], so they can own the book instead of renting,” Sherali said.

Also, unlike the campus bookstore, customers can return books for store credit – without a restocking fee.

Another alternative for students looking to buy textbooks in a mobile way is Amazon Student, a new, free Amazon.com application for iPads and iPhones. Through the app, users can scan the textbook’s barcode to compare Amazon’s price. Students can also sell books back to Amazon.com in exchange for gift cards to the website.

Students looking to simultaneously compare multiple online booksellers beyond Amazon.com may also visit SwoopThat.com, a free online textbook comparison site. SwoopThat.com is now serving over 2,300 universities, colleges and private high schools with over 13 million students.

“I hated buying books. The issue that I felt was that the bookstore was always so expensive, and when we bought them online, we had to price-hunt them one at a time,” said Jonathan Simkin, CEO and co-founder of SwoopThat.

Simkin’s purpose of creating SwoopThat was to automate the entire process of buying textbooks.

“Other sites save you money, we save you money and time,” Simkin said.

To see all required textbooks for a student’s classes, he or she needs only to select UC Davis as their school, the quarter and the name/number of each course the student is taking.

The results will display a comparison of prices from over 1,500 online retailers including Half.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. The comparison includes prices and shipping costs of new, used, rented and electronic books.

SwoopThat.com earns its profits directly from the retailer’s portion of each book sold. Due to price transparency, the website boasts up to 75 percent savings compared to buying new books.

SwoopThat.com also has a textbook exchange section for students wanting to trade directly books with others.

“The book exchange is free, because it’s the right thing to do and it’s better for students,” Simkin said.

Sherali, however, cautioned students about buying online due to time constraints under the quarter system.

“If you buy online it may take a while to ship and if the book is not right, then the quarter is almost over,” Sherali said.

GRACE BENEFIELD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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