Paige Bartlett lays her syllabus on the table, sips coffee and begins to compare prices on Amazon.com for a required textbook.
“There are several ways I go about purchasing books,” Bartlett, a nursing major from Decatur who was a junior in the spring, says as she scrolls through her options.
Every student has had to face this struggle of purchasing textbooks, and everyone has his or her own system.
The Barnes and Noble bookstore on campus is one way to buy textbooks, and the best way to save money there is to buy used books or rent them, according to store manager Aliza McGee. Barnes and Noble will buy back textbooks from students at the end of the semester.
She was asked how the store competes with online sites.
“We have in-store customer service,” McGee said. “Our No. 1 thing we offer is the fact that we are available seven days a week — we aren’t open 24 hours, but we do have that 24-hour support if need to be.”
The 24-hour support can be found at troy.bncollege.com, Barnes and Noble’s own online site. Students can also purchase books and have them delivered to the store to be picked up through the site.
“I didn’t go to Barnes and Noble this semester, but I did use Amazon,” Bartlett said.
She said Amazon guarantees a good-quality book whether it’s new or old, and every book she has purchased from the site was in excellent condition.
“Many of these other online textbook sites, you don’t know if the person is really going to give you what you need, or if what you’re buying is going to be in good condition,” she said. “With Amazon, I can trust that I’m going to get a book in a good condition.”
According to lifehacker.com, the five best sites to buy textbooks are Amazon, Chegg, BIGWORDS, Abebooks and DealOz.
Mary Stewart, a business major from Prattville who was a freshman in the spring, said she got her some of her books through Chegg.
“Well, my books came in fast; they had really good prices; they had
discounts that if you had a minimum purchase you had free shipping,” Stewart said.
Facebook is another option to find books at reasonable prices. Some students use the Troy University Facebook group to sell old books or make requests for books.
“I got some of my books through the Facebook page, I got some through Amazon and then I rented them at Barnes and Noble,” said Lilly Casolaro, a social work major from Fairhope who was a freshman in the spring.
Casolaro also gave another suggestion for students buying textbooks.
“If you have a friend, you can split the cost and share the book,” she said.
Another alternative to buying or renting textbooks is to check them out at the library, according to Chris Shaffer, dean of library services.
He said any textbooks that the library has can be checked out by students, like other books at the library, for one month at a time. They can be renewed in the library or online.
Some professors place textbooks on reserve at the library’s circulation desk, and students can use them inside the library.
Since his start in the fall semester of 2014, Shaffer has made changes and helped to create new programs for the library. Some of his additions, he
said, have been small, such as getting rid of unused shelves to make space for student seating areas, while others have been big steps towards the future of the library, such as purchasing new computers for students to use.
Textbooks, however, are not among the changes to the library.
“The library can’t buy textbooks because the editions change so often that our budget would be eaten up just by trying to buy the latest edition of the textbook and you could never keep up with it because, as students know, they just cost so much,” Shaffer said.
“When we (the library) buy a book, hopefully, that’s a book that will be used 50 to 100 years, but if you buy a textbook, it may be used two to five years.”
Shaffer said he hopes to one day find a program to help students with textbooks. One possibility, which he tried when working on Troy’s Dothan campus, involves students donating their old textbooks to the library.
“Students who want to donate their books to the library can do that and get a tax deduction for whatever that is worth to them, and then the library is not out any money and it is possible to still have access to the books,” he said.
However, Shaffer said that at the moment the library does not have enough space for students to start donating books.