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High prices, limited options leave students searching for textbook alternatives

While Barnes and Noble is the last store where students can purchase textbooks in the immediate campus area, some students find alternatives to the brick-and-mortar store. Credit: Michael Lee | For The Lantern

With the closing of Student Book Exchange in December, students were left looking for alternatives to purchase textbooks other than those at Barnes and Noble.

Why the need for alternatives?

Without other options around campus, students are forced to go Ohio State’s official bookstore — arguably the only one within walking distance of campus. Barnes and Noble is the only bookstore remaining in the campus area, where students expect higher prices relative to online competitors like Amazon.

At Ohio State’s Barnes and Noble book store, for example, a copy of “Introduction to Graphics and Communications for Engineers” costs $87.25. On Amazon, the same copy costs $71.47.

In addition to its closing, on SBX’s website, a link for professors to buy textbooks for their classes redirects them to Barnes and Nobles’ official site.

Cary Amling, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, said while she usually finds free or low-priced textbooks from friends in the same major, Amazon offers an alternative to Barnes and Noble.

Amling said she only buys textbooks if the class requires it for open-note tests.

“I buy the international versions. It’s the same content and usually way cheaper [than Barnes and Noble],” she said.

For Sarah Avdakov, a second-year in Spanish, using Facebook groups as an alternative for finding textbooks has had added benefits.

“As someone who buys and sells through the Facebook groups … it’s sort of like ‘I’ve already used this, I don’t need it anymore,’” Avdakov said. “You know there’s this network out there and you know there are people who have already gone through what you have gone through.”

Barnes and Noble offers to match prices with sites such as Amazon. It also offers what many websites or social media sites do not offer: being a brick-and-mortar store.

For students like Danny Hummer, a third-year in economics, having that brick-and-mortar aspect can be useful.

“I went to Barnes and Noble to get the book in person rather than online,” Hummer said. “Some of my classes I needed the books right away, so I came to the store to get them so I didn’t have to wait.”

Aimling said Barnes and Noble sometimes offers supplemental texts with the class book, which other alternatives can’t offer.

“I feel like Barnes and Noble really likes to be like ‘yeah you need that’ or ‘there are these notes that go with [the textbook],’” Amling said. “Also, I don’t have to go all the way to Barnes and Noble to get them.”

Avdakov said finding books on social media could possibly be even better than buying them online or in-store because of the trade-off.

“With the Facebook group, I definitely say you need to work a lot harder to find what you need sometimes,” Avdakov said. “Normally those books are much cheaper. If you’re getting them from other students they’re willing to negotiate the prices.”

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