Internet booksellers popular with students

Doug Niemela

Matt MacPhail, a College of Education senior, decided to buy his textbooks online this quarter. To him, the hassles of traditional bookstores — overpricing, out-of-stock materials and wasted time standing in line — outweighed the benefits.
VarsityBooks.com and other online retailers can alleviate many of these hassles. Students are able to get the books delivered to their front doors and are offered discounts between 15 and 40 percent off of the new textbooks.
Online retail officials say the idea behind Web sites like Varsity-Books.com is simple — they wish to give students an easy money-saving alternative to the traditional college bookstore.
Created in December 1997, VarsityBooks.com is one of the major online textbook retailers. Offering more than 400,000 titles, 70 universities across the nation are posted on the site. Bigbooks.com is another online textbook site.
Universities provide lists of books to be used each quarter to the online company. Therefore, Varsity-Books.com makes books available at the same time as the bookstores.
Although the University is not currently on the list at VarsityBooks.com, Chief Executive Officer Eric Kuhn said the company has a high interest in working with the University, which is “on slate” for next spring.
However, students need only know the author of a textbook to locate and order a specific book.
Shanan Edelheit, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, said he is planning to order from an online service immediately — he was told he would have to wait up to three weeks for the bookstores to reorder texts that are sold out. Books ordered online are delivered by UPS.
Low pricing adds to the appeal of virtual stores, as college students consider cost as well as accessibility.
Kuhn said VarsityBooks.com can offer discounts because the company does not have to pay facility costs.
“We only operate over the Internet. This means we have extremely low overhead,” Kuhn said. “By doing this, we are able to offer new books at used book prices.”
Despite these low prices, some used textbooks at the bookstores are cheaper than discounted new books sold online.
But for some students, waiting a few days and spending a little extra money for a new text instead of a used text is worth it.
“I can order my text books when I register, and I always buy new anyway, so why wouldn’t I use these sites?” Edelheit said.