Misery or Bliss: Purchasing Textbooks

Inside the McDaniel College bookstore

Stress, anxiety, and panic— every student comes to the crushing realization at the beginning of each semester that buying textbooks is unavoidable. Some cringe and others groan at the thought of spending potentially large sums of money on top of tuition. As this devastating thought sets in, preparation becomes paramount.

Buying books at a bookstore is one of the most expensive ways to buy books, according to Robert Berger from US News. There are many online stores that offer discounted textbooks, such as Half.com, Textbookrush.com, and Amazon.com. But putting out the dough for new books, whether online or at McDaniel’s book store, is going to cost you.

Rebekah Cartwright, a junior, chooses where she buys her books, online or at the McDaniel bookstore, depending on convenience, quality of service, and the time she has available. Sometimes she will buy a book from the bookstore if it is a last minute add-on by the professor because it saves her the hassle of waiting for delivery.

“Buying books at the bookstore is much more expensive than from other websites, but the service at the bookstore is much better than an online store,” Cartwright said.

Contrary to Cartwright’s split between the bookstore and online, Katarina Winhauer, also a junior, gets all of her books at the bookstore on campus. She also prefers to rent as many books as possible rather than buying new ones, which is a good way to save some money.

“I find the bookstore to be very convenient. They’ve been really nice going through the records to find what I need,” she says.

Although Winhauer buys all of her books at the bookstore, she accepts that everyone has their own preferences when buying textbooks.

Is my book going to ship on time? Will it still be in good condition? These questions worry students every semester when buying online. Buying books online gives the benefit of lower costs, while buying at the school bookstore provides high quality service, low stress and commitment to the campus.

The commitment and dedication from the McDaniel Bookstore is a big part of the quality of service. “We strive to provide the best customer service as possible in store and online,” says Kyle Meloche, who runs the McDaniel Bookstore

Not only does the McDaniel Bookstore list their accessible books on their website and strive to help students, but it is also dedicated to the campus.

“Beyond providing basic needs, the bookstore donates to many on-campus and off-campus groups,” Meloche says.

While there are pros and cons to both ways of obtaining textbooks, online retailers do provide substantial competition to the McDaniel bookstore, with a study from Daily Finance by Rich Smith showing some Amazon.com prices coming in around 25 percent less than regular list price.

According to Dr. Richard Claycombe of the Economics Department, “I say let the competition roll. If on-site stores are not needed, so be it.”

Online e-book downloads have also become popular over the last few years, with websites such as Amazon.com and Audible.com providing some audiobooks for free. These sites give access to older classics, which is great for English classes and is a great stress reliever when you get the book with a click of a button.

With all that stress about buying books, it sure would be nice to know professors care, right?

Claycombe believes professors are aware of the extra expense, especially if they have or have had kids of their own in college.

He even agrees with buying older versions of a book. “I tell students that the old books only differ in terms of some of the problems that I assign, so if they can deal with that— go for it,” Claycombe says.

As each semester is about to start, the fear of spending one more dollar for school supplies is always present. Finding the balance between quality of service and price is a key point in buying textbooks, and both online and brick-and-mortar stores provide their own unique perks. Analyzing these benefits very well may just relieve some of that stress piling up from having to spend more money.