Bookstore alternatives

A lack of refund for textbooks has led University of Minnesota students to create other alternatives.

Meghan O'Connor


As students, we are burdened with mountains of stress, such as our extraordinarily packed schedules and our wallets being stretched thin. With tuition, rent and groceries, we feel the stress on our wallets already, not to mention the added cost of textbooks.

When the list of required texts is released, a heavy sigh drones across campus. But, as students, we don’t have a choice. We have to buy the books.

The University of Minnesota Bookstore may be convenient, but many times it fails to give students the best prices. Even the books that we rent from the store can be extremely pricey, and we have to return them at the end of the semester with no kind of refund at all.

It feels like my tuition should easily cover the cost of books, but that would be too easy.

The average college student will spend $500 per semester on textbooks, which is more than $4,000 by graduation. Textbook prices have risen 812 percent over the past 30 years, more rapidly than tuition and health care costs, according to a 2012 Census Bureau study. 

But the blame can’t be put solely on the bookstore. After all, they only bring home 11-12 percent of the bacon; it’s the publishers that are ripping off college students.

At the end of last semester, I eagerly waited in line to hand back my pristine textbooks, which I was sure not to drop in the bathtub or spill copious amounts of coffee over them like I usually do. I was determined to get money back for keeping my books in such great condition. Yet, I walked out of the bookstore with a whopping $25 to my name. Needless to say, I was furious.

So, while we may never be able to get around the cost of buying a new or used book at University bookstores, frustrated students like me have created other opportunities to get some money back at the end of the semester.

Since social media dominates every other part of our life, it only makes sense that it would assist in selling back textbooks.

On Facebook alone, there are the groups Textbook Exchange and Free and for Sale. Both serve as platforms to buy and sell textbooks with other University students.

Recently, a few students at Carlson School of Management took the online platform to the next level. It’s called It’s the “Craigslist for textbooks,” and it’s exclusively for University students.

This nifty new site not only has an enticing name but also cuts out the middleman for textbook costs. It’s simply a matter of posting a textbook for a set price and getting contacted when someone wants to buy it.

While there are more affordable textbooks available online in the form of an e-book, our generation has yet to jump on the reading-from-a-screen bandwagon, unless it’s our Twitter or Facebook newsfeed.

Organizations like Student Public Interest Research Groups have created campaigns to try and keep textbook costs down for students across the nation.

Numerous factors drive up textbook prices: annual new editions, academic copyrights and faculty controlling their research. While there is still a strong demand for textbooks — which guarantees that prices stay high — students can try to avoid shelling out precious rent money by using these services, shopping around online and networking with classmates.

In the meantime, we will have to twiddle our thumbs, wait for publishers to cut us a break and find deals to tide us over.