Biology, English, linguistics – the easy to navigate textbook section of the UR Bookstore has a good reputation for having everything in stock. When a book is backordered, it usually appears on the shelf a few days later, where a student can pick it up before it needs to be used in class.

At some large universities, students spend their first few weeks on campus scrambling around for the right editions of the right books. UR’s size naturally controls that problem.

Searching out and finding your books has become a problem of the past for UR students. With many different outlets for buying textbooks, students are shopping around to compare prices before they fork over their lives’ savings to “the man.” Seriously though, books aren’t cheap, and students are finding ways to stretch their dollar.

“I try to buy them somewhere else [other than the campus bookstore],” junior Barry Gomoll said as he picked up a single algebra book. When asked if he compared prices to decide which was lower, Gomoll said “I didn’t have to check – I knew it was cheaper.”

Where are they cheaper? “Amazon, Half.com, those sites,” junior Simon Chow said.

An in-depth investigation isn’t necessary – one only has to type a few keywords into a search engine at Amazon.com and eBay’s Half.com to find what he’s looking for at 50, 70, sometimes 98 percent less than the list price. There is a plethora of options available to price savvy students searching the Internet, but all online purchases have two necessary evils – shipping and waiting for that e-mail from the post office.

Most students don’t have any problems with the latter. “Most of my professors put the books on reserve at the library, so I read them there until mine come in the mail,” sophomore Jess Badlam said.

Another online option is the textbook forum on the Computer Interest Floor message board at http://books.cif.rochester.edu. Students can post listings of books for sale or requests for particular books. Although the CIF textbook board hasn’t caught on, it can be used in addition to large search engines.

Other students look to Rochester Textbook Exchange, located on W. Henrietta Rd. on the way to Marketplace Mall. Rochester Textbook Exchange guarantees to beat any college bookstore price on any book – anywhere from $5 to $20 cheaper than the bookstore list price. It also maintains a list of the books for students at UR, Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College. At such a central outpost, you can expect long lines and disappointment – they don’t always have your book in stock, creating a wait of two to three business days.

“I tried to buy books there,” sophomore Steven Swartz said, “but they didn’t have it.” Swartz didn’t find his music theory book at the UR Bookstore, and thought he’d try Rochester Textbook Exchange. “They offered to order it, but I ended up finding it at the UR Bookstore for the same price.”

Cost aside, nothing compares with the service and convenience of the UR Bookstore. “I usually shop online, but I choose the bookstore for convenience and Flex,” senior Rajiv Bhatnagar said.

The staff is generally very friendly and eager to help. “Students can call and reserve books and make special orders – on regular books as well as textbooks,” senior and UR Bookstore Student Manager Stephanie Bartlow said.

If you’ve wandered into the bookstore in the past few weeks, you’ve most likely seen signs advertising more used books in stock.

“We have a lot more used books this year because professors turned in their book orders much earlier than in the past,” Bartlow said.

The earlier professors turn in their requests and enrollment numbers, the more time the bookstore has to search out used copies.

Also, there’s no need to worry about never getting your books, as the bookstore orders more as needed. “We had one class double enrollment, so we just ordered more to compensate,” Bartlow said.

While the bookstore advertises special ordering, the input can be tricky. The bookstore Web site offers pre-ordering, but orders must be placed at least 30 days in advance. Some students expected to be able to log on from campus, reserve their books and pick them up in a few days. This dream of combining the easy shopping of the Internet with the convenience of on-campus pick-up was halted with an apology that the online ordering period had ended.

However you plan on buying your books, it is valuable to look around a little. If you’re looking for low price, look online. If you want to have the book in your hands that instant, go to the UR Bookstore. And if you want both and are a bit adventurous, try Rochester Textbook Exchange. Class started a week ago – so get crackin’!

Borchardt can be reached at jborchardt@campustimes.org.



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