With the beginning of a new semester comes an expensive and time-consuming process for all students: purchasing books for their new classes. Ever-changing schedules, long lines at bookstores and different return policies can lead to unseen difficulties.

Beth Dykstra
Shaman Drum Bookstore, the most prominent independently owned bookstore on campus, offers hundreds of textbooks at the beginning of the semester. (peter schottenfels/Daily)

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways for students to get the textbooks, coursepacks and other materials needed for their classes. There are also many options students have to selling back those books which are no longer needed.



All stores buy back books during normal business hours. Students must show their student ID before selling. Determining the amount of money for the books varies.

According to their website, the Michigan Union Bookstore uses two criteria. First, they see if the professor plans to use the book again and if supply is less than demand. If that is the case, the store will give up to 50 percent of the selling price. If the professor is not using the book, the store will give the seller the latest national pricing, which is the price given by the book’s manufacturer in which the store can buy the book back.

Michigan Book and Supply uses a similar formula. “Students will get the most money back if their teachers use the book again, and have their order in, (for) the next term. The sooner they (students) sell their books, the better. Even if a book is not being used for a class, we will buy it. Then it is based on the wholesalers set price,” says Daniel Jones, store manager of Michigan Book and Supply.

For all bookstores, the policy on buybacks is simple: if the store sells the book, or has sold the book, then the store will buy the book back.

However, some students prefer not to sell their books back to the stores where they bought them. “It’s not worth it. You have to sell to people,” said Engineering sophomore Leif Knag, who has sold his textbooks back online to other engineering students.

Stores prepare for the new semester by hiring more workers and offering extended hours. Most stores are open until 9 p.m. or later.

“When buying your books, try to avoid the ‘rush’ by coming in early. There will be more people to help you and you will have it out of the way,” Jones said.“Then, when you get your syllabus make sure you have the correct book. If not, exchange it as soon as possible and show us your syllabus to clear up the mistake,”


Buying online

The high cost of textbooks at bookstores can force students to look for alternate ways to get their materials. Searching for books online has grown in popularity, due to lower prices and the ease of use, as it prevents the long lines that are characteristic of bookstores at the beginning of the semester.

“I normally go to the bookstore, but I want to start buying online because it’s cheaper,” said Knag, who has looked at sites such as www.half.com to purchase his books.

“Buying books online is a lot cheaper if you can manage it,” LSA junior Jon Shaheen said. “Amazon can save you a lot, especially if used books aren’t available. I got six of my books from them this term and ended up saving 40 bucks without having to go the used route. I’d probably get all of my books that way if there was a way to find out what I needed in advance.”

Another portal to more affordable book buying is www.dogears.net. By registering for free on Dogears, students are linked to other students at the University who are selling their used textbooks. Searching by title, author, subject or ISBN will send the potential buyer to a list of matches along with the selling price. Students can then inquire about the condition or offer to buy the book. Dogears is offered by the Michigan Student Assembly.

Popular sites www.half.com and www.amazon.com are not school specific, but offer both new and used books. Again, a search by title, author, or ISBN will lead to many results, classified by book condition.

Ann Arbor’s online marketplace, www.thediag.com, functions mainly like eBay in that sellers place their items up for auction and the highest bidder by a certain end point receives the book. Registration for the site is free and shipping costs can be reduced by simply meeting the person on campus to complete the transaction.

However, the quality of books is a concern, as is the inability to return the texts if they are not needed. Still, for many students, it is a risk worth taking.

“The only problem with buying books online is having to wait for them to arrive, but if professors would just publish lists of what we needed in time to order them, everybody could get cheaper books,” Shaheen said.

Bookstores are affected by the emergence of online buying. “It not only hurts our business but the student does not have the assurance that he or she is getting the correct book. Their return policy is also questionable,” said Jones.

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