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Website gives competitive edge to textbook buyers

Textbook prices continue to rise as their publishers ship their products to bookstores, but students don’t have fling their wallets up just yet.

Online marketplaces serve as an answer to the increases. With this in mind, the service SlugBooks compares prices from multiple facets of the textbook market: Internet sellers such as Amazon and Chegg, university bookstores, and alternatives such as rentals and any other available options.

“Publishers are charging more and more for textbooks,” said SlugBooks CEO David Miller. “Then there is the used bookstore, and (finally) you’ll find prices even cheaper online such as Amazon. Those prices are actually lower than ever before.”

Miller says that the online market is free, allowing anyone to buy and sell. “Publishers are continuously making more books; it’s inevitable that the supply will eventually get to the point that the price gets down to zero for every single textbook,” said Miller. “So, the success of the online marketplaces is actually a big part of the reason why the publishers continue to charge more and more.”

According to their website, SlugBooks started out as a student organization at the University of California, Santa Cruz. When Amazon’s goal of saving money by shifting the book market online came full swing, SlugBooks was out-competed and eventually shut down 2006.  Miller then revitalized the SlugBooks brand by launching the textbook price comparison search function.

“Math and science books tend to cost more so those are the ones you’re in most cases going to save money by shopping around,” Miller said.

“Whereas the cheaper books such as paperbacks, liberal arts books, and ones for theater and writing classes are the ones where usually you’ll find the best deal (at your bookstore).”

Sometimes the best deal doesn’t appear on a SlugBooks search, so the only option is the official University bookstore.

“I usually buy my textbooks from Amazon,” mathematics freshman Yehee Nicole Son said. “If I don’t find them on Amazon, I buy them from the bookstore, although sometimes you have to buy access codes from the University, giving you no choice.”

Regardless of price or availability, other options such as renting or e-books exist.

“I should consider renting,” Son said.

“Honestly, after you use that textbook for that semester, you’re not going to open it again. Renting it is not only cheaper but you’re taking it back, conserving space in a shelf or floor or underneath your bed or wherever (you keep your books).”

According to Miller, the textbook market has three major players: publishers, professors, and bookstores, who have different agendas that don’t overlap. Digital e-books sell as high as new books because publishers decide to price them as if they were hard copies.

“Digital will only catch on by becoming more reasonable in price,” Miller said. “Until then, we’re going to see the marketplace’s gap between the publishers’ prices and the online sellers’ prices increase.”

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