Website lets students avoid used-book middleman

Peter Kauffner

Students now have yet another option when buying or selling their used textbooks — the World Wide Web.
A newly created website allows students who have access to the Internet to advertise their used books at no charge. The website, called University Books, is a product of Net Lite Communications of Wyandotte, Mich.
Potential buyers can search the site’s database by keyword and obtain a list of available titles. The name and contact information of the seller are also given. Buyers can then send e-mail to sellers, agree on a price and arrange to either meet them personally or negotiate some form of shipment.
A University used-book website called the Student Book Exchange was in operation last year, but was recently closed for upgrading. Dion Almaer, a former University computer science major and the maintainer of the website, said he expects to bring the site back online by the end of fall quarter.
“I’m from England and books there are free. Then I came here and found you have to pay full price for your books at the beginning of the quarter and then at the end of the quarter you sell them back and get only half price. I felt really screwed,” Almaer said.
The University’s bookstores and the Student Book Store in Dinkytown buy used books from students for 50 percent of the new book prices. Used books are only bought back if an instructor notifies the bookstore that the books will be used in upcoming courses.
“Finals week is the best time to sell back your books,” said Robert Crabb, director of University Bookstores. This is because the stores know which books they will be selling, he added.
University Bookstores and the Dinkytown store both sell used books for 75 percent of their list prices.
“Those prices are pretty much universal in the college book industry,” Crabb said.
“For a book that was $10 new, we’d buy it back for $5 and resell it for $7.50,” said Mark Hepler, manager of the Student Book Store in Dinkytown.
Helen Phin, president of the Minnesota Student Association, said the organization is planning on helping Almaer advertise his book-buying website.
“Just because right now it’s very hard to get a fair price for your books from the bookstore,” she said.
Buying used books directly from a previous user may allow students to save money by cutting out the retailer, but some local booksellers say the website method has some disadvantages.
“To me it doesn’t sound like a real good idea because you wouldn’t be able to look at your books before you buy them and check what condition they are in,” said Shirley Helen, acting store manager of the University’s East Bank Store located in Williamson Hall.
Hepler said a book’s condition is not much of an issue for students. “It’s that you have to get things in and have them ready to go at the beginning of the quarter,” he said.