Local News

Online vs. In Line: Students Go Shopping for Textbooks

Posted August 21, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Heading back to school is not cheap, especially for college students who have to buy textbooks for class. Online book-shopping has its advantages and drawbacks.

Like most college students, Mike Powers was hoping to save a few bucks by buying his school books online.

"I looked at the ones online and the ones [at the bookstore], and they were pretty much the same thing. It takes a week to ship them [when buying online], so I decided to get my books here," he says.

Web sites that sell used and new college books are everywhere. Richard Hayes,N.C. State's bookstore director, says the sites are not hurting business at all, because they are already competitive.

"We are designing a non-profit operation, and our textbooks and computers department are break even," he says.

In fact, most universities, including NCSU, have developed bookstore Web sites of their own.

WRAL chose four popular books at NCSU's bookstore. On one Web site, only three of the book were available. Another site had three of the titles, but one title was out of stock.

The price was not always right, either. A $96 calculus book at the NCSU bookstore cost $7 more atbigwords.comand $3 less atVarsityBooks.com.

Student Shelley Turner says the small savings were not worth it after shipping and handling are added in. She wishes online buying was a better deal.

"It would have kept me from having to stand in line," she says.

Student swaps can be a cheaper option. They can be done the old-fashioned way -- by word of mouth -- or through one of several Web sites where used textbooks are bought and sold online.