Can We Buy Books?

There has been some discussion over the last decade or two about the web, using the internet, how much it’s affected college and university students, and how much it’s changed the way students are buying and selling textbooks. Though this article will focus more on thoughts about the way students see if others can buy books, there is a great deal of information on the internet about the buying and purchasing of textbooks.

In the not too distant past, college students would start their school term with a list (sometimes a long list) of books they would have to purchase from their campus bookstore.

List of College Textbooks Needed For a Class

Illustration of what a list of college textbooks needed for class might look like.

This list of textbooks would usually be an aggregate of all their professors’ textbook adoption choices — where the student’s instructors say “hey this is a good book, this is the one I want to use for class.” The logistics of choosing and adopting a textbook vary from institution to institution, but a simplified example may be as follows (using a history class, for example): in preparation for an upcoming history class term, a student’s history professor might either decide to continue using the same history book they’ve been teaching out of (in which case the bookstore would try to continue selling that same textbook), or, the instructor may decide they wish to change or update the current books being used for her or his class. Because there are many history textbooks to choose from, the professor’s task includes reading and reviewing many textbooks, sometimes dozens of them, and then choosing the one that the he or she feels would most benefit the history class. That textbook choice would then be submitted to the college or university bookstore so that the store can place orders for that book. Subsequently, the college bookstore can sell to the history students that want to buy that book for class.

College Bookstore Where Students Might Buy and Sell Textbooks

College Bookstore Where Students Might Buy and Sell Textbooks

The bookstore now has a task: to confirm and double check that the chosen book is available for purchase, so that if the instructor wants all of his or her students to use that textbook for class, there will be plenty books available for purchase, and to make sure the book that’s available is the same edition as the book the instructor wanted, and to make sure the “version” is the one the instructor wants. Many books come in different versions; some textbooks are split into volumes. Sometimes volume 1, and volume 2. Other times, volumes A, B, C, etc. Other times, books may come in brief or “essentials” versions, while other times textbooks may be bound into a complete set. Sometimes textbooks only come in one version. It all depends on various factors such as how the textbook’s author has written the book. Then the bookstore would make sure they could place an order and have enough copies for all the students in that particular history class. Moving forward in time to today; we have the internet, the web, online companies to order books from, and even excellent online companies which may want to buy textbooks. An even newer technology is upon us: digital books. Textbooks in electronic form. And all kinds of computers, computing equipment, and amazing hand held devices to read electronic versions of college textbooks on a screen. Whether the need for actual physical textbooks (made out of paper) is decreasing or increasing, or whether electronic versions of books will completely replace or simply augment physical textbooks is really beyond the scope of this article. Rather than focusing on any trends, or trying to figure out which way, if any, is better or worse, it might be important to note that what is really neat is that nowadays there seems to be more choices available. More options, more choices, so that a wider range of students can feel more control over their choice in media. Adding to the previous “history textbook” example, in addition to the book coming in volumes 1, 2, or A, B, and C, perhaps the history book may at some point, if not already, be available in both paper and electronic formats. So if both versions of the book are for sale to sell to the students, then that means the students have an additional option to choose either a paper version or an electronic version.

Some students might prefer holding a bound book in their hands while reading it

Student holding a textbook.

An Illustration of what it might look like to be holding a new or used college textbook.

other students may wish to view it on their laptop computer or handheld device. The students personal preferences notwithstanding, there are cost issues. What if the student cannot afford an electronic device to read an electronic book? Nowadays there is a range of prices for electronic equipment. Some things to keep in mind might include what the maintenance costs, if any, for the device might be, or, if an internet connection is needed, what is the cost, if any, for the internet connection? Which would cost more — to have textbooks made out of paper, or electronic books plus the cost of a reader? I guess it all depends. Simply doing some mathematical calculations to figure the total cost of paper versus electronic versions, taking into account that different vendors sell textbooks at sometimes varying prices depending on whether the book is new or used, and other factors, may be something to think about. It is possible that some of these costs may be moot as far as the student is concerned, e.g. the college campus might have free broadband internet, or the digital book reading device might be a gift (from the school, from parents) or available for loan to the student, or maybe the electronic version is cheaper than the cost of some paper versions textbooks.

Being able to purchase textbooks in electronic versions, or purchasing a physical (“paper”) textbook version has either already become a choice, or will soon be becoming a choice for students nowadays; years ago, the only choice when it came to buying college textbooks was to purchase the paper form. Today, when students go on the web to see if they can save money by buying a used textbook online, should also keep in mind that when they are finished using that book for their college or university classes, there could be a possibility that they could sell those textbooks online or sell their used textbook to another student, contingent upon whether that book is still the current version, and that there is demand for it, i.e. textbook buyers want to buy it or not. To sell textbooks is a really great option to consider, amongst all the other wonderful options available, today.

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