Textbook retailers get on Internet

by Nune Gazdhyan
Features Editor

For generations the campus bookstore has been the best and only way to purchase textbooks, but that has changed drastically this fall as a number of Web sites VarsityBooks.com, efollett.com, BigWords.com, ecampus.com and Textbooks.com, to name a few, have sprung to initiate an Internet book war and make buying college textbooks as easy as clicking a mouse.

These sites are competing fiercely to attract students through numerous discounts, bonus points, low shipping charges, television and radio announcements.

As more retailers take their business online the competition to attract consumers increases and at the same time offers more options for consumers.

VarsityBooks.com was founded in 1997. The search engine finds texts by course, professor, title, author, subject or ISBN. It also has a toll-free customer service-support system and a 30 day money back return policy.

Also, it offers up to 40 percent discounts on new textbooks compared to on-campus textbook store prices and online competitors. VarsityBooks.com is able to offer 2.5 million titles of textbooks and general trade books from more than 25,000 publishers and it stocks more than 200,000 books that are ready-to-ship. However, they do not sell used textbooks.

While fairly new into the arena, efollett.com, which is part of the Follett Higher Education Group, has 16 million books in stock including foreign language texts and campus-specific course packs and value packs. Also, it specializes in a large supply of used textbooks at 25 percent off the new book prices.

Senior Doug Collins at ULV’s distance learning center in Ventura recently purchased textbooks online through efollet.com.

“I like to do everything online. However, I didn’t have a good experience with the online service due to a mix up and got the wrong books,” said Collins.

However, he did say that he prefers all online services and thinks that they are easy and convenient.

Other services include free in-store pick up, access to a wide variety of college merchandise from hundreds of colleges and online sellers and credits which allow students to save money on future purchases.

“I’ve actually [ordered] twice online. I felt that it’s quick and easy. I recommend everyone to order online,” said Eric Buring a second semester master’s program student in Elmendorf, Alaska.

There are numerous online textbook retailers and often it is very difficult to keep up with them and their discounts.

The quest to find the best deal on textbooks online without spending too much time can be aided by an online service called BesteDeals.com.

This online site provides consumers with the opportunity to compare textbooks prices with over 40 online retailers and in 20 seconds it provides information on prices, availability, shipping charges and other options that numerous online retailers offer. There is no charge for the service and anyone can use it.

“If you order online you don’t have to stand in line,” said Nick Karvia, ULV Bookstore’s textbook manager. He added that “students don’t realize that they need to figure in the shipping and the buyback of the book in order to determine if they are saving money.”

All online retailers have their standards and goals when it comes to attracting customers. While many online retailers offer a the same books, their prices may vary.

Online retailers have their standards when it comes to targeting customers and each offers deals to offset the price of the book while at the same time provide customers with reasonable prices.

The convenience and opportunity of shopping from home that these sites offer is their way of targeting consumers. However, by no means will the online competition put the traditional textbooks out of business. There are still traditional shoppers who want to see and thumb through their books before purchasing.

“If you need the book right now, online bookstores aren’t going to do you any good,” said Karvia.

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