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Textbook considerably less expensive on Internet

Mary Thompson

Buying college textbooks may be the largest single cost students face when entering into the world of higher education.

“They’re just too expensive,” said 19-year-old Nick Dean, who started his first year of college last week at Lake Tahoe Community College.

Dean said the cost of books more than doubled his cost for tuition for the quarter.



“I paid $120 in tuition and about $270 in books,” he said. “I know one girl who tried to sell a $60 used book (to the book vender) and she only got $8 for it – it’s like organized crime.”

However, LTCC’s President Guy Lease said the book business isn’t as profitable as some believe.



“People think we make a fortune off the books and that’s simply not the case,” he said.

According to Lease, most of the profits generated by the bookstore are the result of food sales because the textbook market requires a lot of labor in stocking and packaging when the books don’t get sold during the quarter.

But times may get tougher for the bookstores as competition from the Internet thickens.

Some students have realized that the college bookstores are not the only newsstand on the block and, with basic computer skills, they can navigate their way through cyberspace and around the prices.

In some cases a quick click of the mouse can save students more than half the cost of the listed textbook price from companies like The U Zone and ecampus.com, which offer the books at, or below, cost.

Recent college graduates Matt Ogden, of Pennsylvania, and Jeffrey Kuperman, of Texas, both 24, said they started The U Zone Web site in March to try to fill the college niche.

Selling textbooks at cost is just one of the features their business offers. Ogden said they are able to employ about 40 people and stock books in a warehouse in Texas and sell them at cost because they make their money elsewhere – by selling advertisements on their site.

“The college market is very significant to many retailers and they’ll pay a lot of money to get that message across to them,” he said. “The bookstores aren’t too happy about this but the students are benefiting from what we do.”

Ogden said their cyber bookstore is an example of the new way of doing business.

“Doing business over the Internet allows us to have lower operating costs,” he said. “Most people, if they want to sell a product in 100 locations, they have to have 100 different stores. We can sell to those same locations and more and only have one warehouse. (The concept) could be applied to any product that has enough demand.”

Ogden claims his textbook service can get the books to the student’s house within one to four days. The U Zone shipping rates vary but the most economical choice is the United Parcel Service at a $3 flat fee plus an additional 95 cents for each book.

But as easy as the process sounds, some glitches still exist.

Julie Mitchell, LTCC student, said she ordered an anatomy and physiology textbook earlier this month from a source off the Internet and never got it. She said when she called to check on the purchase she found out that the book was on back order. In the end, she wound up having to pay the college’s price.

“The (Internet) system is good but you have to watch who you buy it from,” she said. “I recommend checking up on the order about three days after it’s placed to make sure that it is being sent.”

Even with the mix up, Mitchell said she’s not turned off by the trials of techno-shopping.

“Next time, I will definitely try the Internet again,” she said. “It’s all about price.”

Despite possible lost revenue, Lease said the college supports the students’ efforts to find new ways of saving money.

“If the students can find a universally better way of doing things, we’re glad,” he said.

“There may come a time when we are all buying the books from the Internet. Maybe, one day, we’ll have a station at the college where students will sit down, log on and buy the books with a credit card and they will be sent directly to their house.”

The U Zone can be browsed at http://www.theuzone.com and ecampus can be reached at http://www.ecampus.com


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