NYPIRG, Web site offers online alternatives for textbook purchases
Every semester, students curse the campus bookstores. Whether they choose Follett’s Orange Bookstore or the University Bookstore, most students believe that they are paying too much for a book that they will sell back for a fraction of the price.
It is important to know that there are ways to cut out the bookstores as the middleman. There are other options available. The New York Public Interest Research Group, NYPIRG and BooksOnCampus.com each offer a Web site for students who wish to buy or sell textbooks at their own price.
The NYPIRG site, available at www.nypirg.org/bx, allows students attending many universities in New York state to post ads for their used textbooks. The ads are filed according to which university the student attends.
The program started at SU in the 1980s, before students had the option to buy their books online. NYPIRG would hand out cards to students so they could exchange contact information to later swap books, said Dana Hill, the program coordinator of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SU chapter of NYPIRG.
As the Internet began to play an important role in the lives of students, the program was moved online and the Web site was created, Hill said.
Currently, very few students make use of the site. Few ads for actual textbooks are posted between the spam for plasma TVs and cell phones.
‘The site allows students to negotiate their own price, to take out the middleman,’ Hill said. ‘I’m perplexed about why more students aren’t using it.’
BooksOnCampus.com offers free use of its site to any student with a Facebook account. The Web site uses Facebook, rather than a separate registration process, so the process is quick and easy for students. More than 100 students on the SU campus make use of the site, said Mark Kantor, one of the Web site’s founding members.
Although the Web site offers a suggested price for textbooks, students use their own judgment with the posted condition and value of the book. If another student shows interest in the book, an e-mail is first sent to the seller with the buyer’s information, and then vice versa, Kantor said.
If the two agree on the condition and price of the book, it is up to the two students to work out a location to trade the book for cash, he said.
On average, through BooksOnCampus.com, a student will pay 55 percent less and earn 4.5 times more on a book than they would at a bookstore, Kantor said. Since the site’s creation at Brandeis University in 2003, the founders have been able to keep the Web site free to students.
The founders complete all of the programming and designing themselves and run the site with 25 students from across the country. They do not take ads to keep the Web site looking clean and simple.
‘Students tell their friends, or share the site through Facebook, so we don’t need commercials,’ Kantor said.
Some revenue is brought in through the site’s affiliation with Amazon.com, he said. If the book a student needs is not available on campus, the Web site offers the link to Amazon.com with a listing of the lowest price.
Phil Curtis, freshman geography major, said he heard about the site from a friend in his residence hall.
‘The bookstore rips us off and I was tired of it,’ he said.
The appeal of BooksOnCampus.com is that a book can be sold for more and bought for less, cutting out the profit of the bookstore, Curtis said. Acknowledging the risk of getting robbed, Curtis said he received an entire bundle of astronomy books Wednesday and they were all in good condition.
‘I posted a few books, but the more people that use it, the more useful it will be,’ Curtis said.
Fliers were posted around campus at the end of last semester to advertise NYPIRG’s book exchange program, but within a few days they had been covered up, Hill said. In the future, Hill said she plans to work harder to promote the program so students are aware of it.
The SU chapter of NYPIRG, founded in 1973, is one of the oldest in the state. The organization was started to help students’ voices be heard on a state level, Hill said, who has worked for NYPIRG since October 2006.
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