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Students find book buying alternatives cheaper

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by Gloria Flores
Staff Writer

With so many college expenses, some students are trying to save their money by purchasing textbooks online rather than buying them at the University of La Verne bookstore.

“Coming up with $500 every semester isn’t easy,” said Erica Pembleton, freshman psychology major. “I never knew that buying text books on-line could save me money.”

Dozens of web sites today are dedicated to helping customers shop and sell merchandise via the Internet. Many of these web sites function much like eBay.com, which has a mission to provide a global trading platform where, according to eBay representatives, “Practically anyone can trade practically anything.”

Half.com is a product of eBay, which calls itself the world’s online marketplace. Half.com lets people both buy and sell merchandise to each other through the Web site.

By trading books through Half.com, shoppers can easily search for specific titles or browse for items that are categorized and surrounded with product descriptions, reviews and artwork.

Sellers list items for sale by typing in a UPC code, ISBN or model number, selecting the item’s condition and setting the sale price.

Half.com’s president, Joshua Kopelman, created the site when he realized there were inefficiencies between the supply and demand for used mass-market items.

According to Kopelman, Half.com overcomes these inefficiencies and significantly streamlines the entire process of connecting people to buy and sell over the Internet.

Allbookstores.com goes a step beyond Half.com and creates a price comparison engine that searches more than 30 online bookstores with one click, saving the customer time and money.

Additionally, some on-line book search engines like Alibris.com work in conjunction with Borders, the large bookstore chain.

“Alibris is delighted to offer Borders’ customers millions of books from around the world,” said Martin Manley, president and CEO of Alibris.com. “Borders and Alibris have made it easy for any Borders customer to order a hard-to-find book. This is the kind of service that Borders customers have come to expect, and we are pleased to help them deliver.”

Half.com user and freshman Liberal Studies major, Nancy Reyes, said, “Buying books this way was very convenient and economical for me.”

But for students who have never shopped around for books on-line, the ULV bookstore has been their primary source for textbooks.

“I just never considered going anywhere else to buy my books,” said Ryan Holland, sophomore communications major.

Setting convenience aside, there is a significant price range between shopping at the bookstore and shopping on-line.

A general education course book required for Biology 101 will cost ULV students $60 for a used copy and $79.95 for a new copy if purchased at ULV’s bookstore.

Half.com offered the same textbook for $1.95, giving the same book up to a $78 difference.

However, a few elements for students to keep in mind when buying books on-line include the various shipping and handling charges as well as the length of time it will take to deliver the merchandise.

ULV students can order textbooks or other course materials online via the University’s Textbook Ordering System, which can save students from waiting in long lines at the bookstore and guarantees that students will receive the right books and course materials for their classes.

ULV’s bookstore and online bookstore are not operated by the University, but by Follett and eFollett.com.

Follett Corporation is a family-owned operation and pioneered selling textbooks online in 1995.

It introduced efollett.com in 1999, which now serves more than 1,000 campuses nationwide.

Follett was built to better focus on the changing needs of the college stores’ market and is dedicated to helping college stores become world class multi-channel academic retailers, according to the corporation’s Web site.

“Our students have been complimentary of the increased quantities of used titles. The programs put forward are saving them money,” said Margie A. Bryant, Georgetown University’s associate vice president for auxiliary services.

With over 625 stores, Follett is the largest operator of college bookstores in North America and ranks 143 out of 500 in the 1999 Forbes listing of the largest private companies in the United States.

“We ultimately selected Follett to operate our two bookstores based on three key issues involving customer service, employee welfare and the financial return,” said Alan J. Fish, assistant vice president for business services from the University of Miami.

But unlike Half.com and other on-line bookstores, Follett has vendor partners who share and help in creating the company’s mission and in making it the academic retailer of choice.

Follett constantly evaluates the product selection, pricing and services of all vendor partners. By creating the middleman that other on-line bookstores avoid, Follett’s prices are significantly higher.

More on-line book-buying options are available at www.alibis.com, allbookstores.com, www.nextag.com and adfarm.mediaplex.com.

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