Textbook options help students save time, money

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Students who consider their options when it comes to buying textbooks may save time and money this semester. The BYU Store can provide an easy way for students to buy, rent and sell textbooks on campus, according to Academic Resources Manager Tom Hirtzel. (Natalie Stoker)

College students frequently buy, rent and sell textbooks. The following textbook options and information may help BYU students take some of the stress out of starting a new semester.

My Book List

At the beginning of a semester or term, the BYU Store’s online service My Book List is the best place to start looking for textbooks, according to BYU Store academic resources manager Tom Hirtzel. My Book List is the university’s designated service for disseminating information to students about which course materials BYU faculty and department secretaries have selected for classes.

My Book List has a good comparison shopping aspect, according to Hirtzel, because it lists both BYU Store and third party source prices for all course materials in the system.

“By no means is it a comprehensive list because that would be impossible, but it certainly is a good place to start,” Hirtzel said. “We just want to make sure students recognize that My Book List is really the university’s effort to make sure students know what they need and give them a good start on opportunities.”

At the end of each semester or term, the BYU Store’s sellback prices are listed on My Book List under the “Sell-Back” tab. Hirtzel said My Book List can also save students money because it lists the BYU Store’s prices for textbook rentals, which are becoming increasingly available.

“We really encourage students to use My Book List to see what our rental prices are because I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Hirtzel said.

The BYU Store

Using the BYU Store’s services can provide an easy way for students to buy and rent textbooks, according to Hirtzel. He said some of the features students might not know about include the store’s free in-store pickup for course materials ordered on the BYU Store website and students’ ability to defer the cost of course materials for 45 days by charging items to their student accounts.

“This can really be a make-or-break benefit for personal or family finances,” Hirtzel said. “It’s a really nice way to defer the cost of getting back into school.”

Hirtzel said students may also benefit from selling their textbooks through the BYU Store by exchanging course materials for money on the spot, providing used books for other BYU students in the future and saving the time and effort it would take the student to sell the book online or in other places.

“Generally speaking, BYU Store pricing is competitive with other textbook buying companies,” Hirtzel said. “When students go out and compare prices, we hope that students will find that our (sellback) price is actually higher than Amazon. We would expect that to be the case.”

BYU Book Exchange

The BYU Store also owns and operates an online textbook exchange for students. The BYU Book Exchange facilitates the buying and selling of used course materials directly between BYU students.

“It’s our goodwill offering to students and to the university to buy books,” Hirtzel said. “The site was designed to fulfill a void that has always been a part of the BYU student experience.”

Hirtzel said the student book exchange was run by BYUSA in the Wilkinson Student Center 20 to 25 years ago. At the end of a semester or term, students would bring their textbooks to the Garden Court, fill out a paper for each book they wanted to sell with information about the student and the textbook price, and other students would search through the tables of books and papers to buy course materials for the following semester or term.

“It was a very manual process,” Hirtzel said. “Looking back, we didn’t think anything about it being cumbersome or weird because back then the functionality of the internet was not really a thing.”

As technology advanced over the years, students from BYUSA started using an online book exchange system, which Hirtzel said the BYU Store eventually took over because the website ended up being easier for the store to maintain.

Elijah Broadbent, a BYU junior studying economics, said he has enjoyed being able to bypass long sellback lines on finals week and seek better value for his textbooks by using the BYU Book Exchange.

“I think most BYU students have experienced sellbacks where you wind up with only a few dollars in exchange for what was a $30 or $40 book at purchase,” Broadbent said. “BYU Book Exchange puts the control in your hands to determine a fair price.”

Benjamin File, who graduated from BYU in June, said the BYU Book Exchange was “a lifesaver” for him during his last two years of school as an undergraduate student.

“After I learned about the website, I sold the books I had and basically used that money the rest of my college career to buy books because I got most of it back after each semester by selling my books,” File said.

Online Textbook Companies

Students may also choose to buy, rent or sell textbooks from other online textbook companies. The online service Chegg is primarily known for its textbook rentals, according to Caroline Gennaro, Chegg corporate communications manager.

Gennaro said the company name Chegg comes from a “chicken and egg problem” many college students face.

“Chegg got its name because to make a lot of money, you need to go to college, but to go to college, you need a lot of money,” Gennaro said.

Students may find that comparing prices and using online services like Chegg saves them time and money when it comes to buying and selling textbooks. Gennaro said students may benefit from using Chegg because it offers students features such as free eTextbooks for seven days and a 21-day satisfaction guarantee with physical textbooks.

Student Representatives

Student representative Sam Silberman (right) carries out a SellMeBook textbook exchange with a University of Idaho, Moscow, student in spring 2016. (Ben Barton)

Some textbook companies also operate through student representatives, who can earn money by buying and selling students’ textbooks on behalf of a textbook company. Brandon Devlin, chief sales officer of the company SellMeBooks, said this can help students get extra work or internship experience during finals weeks.

“In addition to saving college students money on the cost of their textbooks, our goal is to add value to college students’ experience,” Devlin said. “One of the ways that we do that is by providing a work opportunity.”

SellMeBooks Northwestern Regional Manager Bryan Fink works closely with student representatives working in Utah schools, including BYU. He said he encourages students interested in becoming representatives to contact SellMeBooks anytime.

“The only thing the student needs is about 2 to 3 hours per day on finals week to buy books and the desire to work,” Fink said. “It is probably one of the easiest and most lucrative part-time jobs a student can do.”

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