University of Miami students have always had options when buying textbooks.
Book Horizons, located across US-1 from campus, has been an alternative to the campus bookstore for more than 50 years.
But two is no longer a lot of choices when it comes to buying textbooks.
Today, students looking for new or used textbooks simply need Internet access.
“Now more than ever, students have more places and more choices than ever before,” said Will Sekoff, the manager of Book Horizons.
Half.com (run by eBay) and other web sites such as AbeBooks.com, CampusI.com and CheapTextbooks.com (run by Amazon) provide students with numerous options by finding sellers who offer different prices on the same textbooks-usually used.
Many students who have become comparison shoppers are realizing large savings.
Armando Mazariegos, a graduate student, occasionally uses Amazon.com to buy textbooks. His most recent purchase was listed at $50 in the bookstore, but he bought it for $19 on Amazon.
But Amazon is not his one-stop-shop. Sometimes Mazariegos finds a better deal at the bookstore.
“It’s kind of your luck to see if you can find it,” he said.
Online booksellers have become so numerous that a student comparing 10 or more prices on a given textbook is not unusual. But managers of traditional book stores believe there is reason to be skeptical of these websites.
Richard Dunham, manager of the campus bookstore, believes that some online booksellers take advantage of students.
He has heard of booksellers based in countries such as Thailand that sell paperback international editions of hardcover texts.
In addition, he said that students buying these deeply discounted international editions are violating laws and purchasing an inferior product.
As a policy, Dunham does not buy these books back from students.
“When I see it with my eyes, I say, ‘That’s the wrong edition,'” he said.
Dunham and Sekoff agree that students would be wise to avoid online booksellers and rely on their local bookstores.
“We feel pretty strongly that a local store can provide local service and personal service to students,” Sekoff said.
Dunham noted that some online booksellers do not refund students if they accidentally buy the wrong edition or wrong text. In such a situation, he said his store would refund students.
Additionally, he has heard of online booksellers advertising the latest edition of a book, but shipping an old, obsolete version.
“We always think of the student first,” Dunham said. “We do everything with the student in mind.”
While local bookstores may not purposely deceive buyers, they do occasionally run out of textbooks.
“Sometimes there are anomalies where things you don’t expect happen,” Dunham said.
The campus bookstore buys a certain number of textbooks based on their records. How many books are typically bought for a given class is taken into consideration and the store tries to predict any changes in recent trends.
Book Horizons declined to specify its methods for determining which books to buy and how many of those books to buy.
Even with possible savings online, not all students are comparison shoppers.
Mary Gallardo, a senior, is aware that many textbooks are cheaper online, but she normally uses the campus bookstore for its convenience.
She prefers the campus bookstore to Book Horizons because she does not see any difference in pricing between the two stores.
More information on the campus bookstore may be found at miami.edu/bookstore. More information on Book Horizons may be found at BookHorizons.com.
Other school-sponsored and supported online textbook resources for students are also available. Websites such as caneexchange.miami.edu, canebooks.com and umlist.net allow students to post their own textbooks for sale and also buy textbooks that other students have posted.
The latter two are both student-run.
Hunter Umphrey may be contacted at email@example.com.