‘Occupy the Bookstore’ compares book prices
The average student at a four-year public college spends $1,200 per year on textbooks according to The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers college admissions materials. Buying from unusual sources and reviewing different options — from buying used to renting to ebooks — can help that cost.
Occupy the Bookstore is a new Chrome extension that allows students to compare textbook prices from their school’s website with various third-party options, from Amazon to student sellers.
The plug-in is powered by Texts.com, a price-comparison marketplace where students can buy and sell textbooks, said Peter Kim Frank, CEO of the website. They decided to expand the service into a new functionality, taking advantage of improving technology.
“We realized that students that knew about third-party services still needed to go to [their school’s] bookstore website,” he said. “This extension brings price comparison to the bookstore website.”
Once a student downloads the plug-in — available only for the Google Chrome browser — they can visit their school’s bookstore website and view third-party prices overlaid with the original.
So far, they have only a few bookstore websites compatible, but BNCollege, Rutgers’ book source, is one of them, along with Follett and Neebo. According to the Occupy the Bookstore website, the plug-in covers about 2,500 universities.
Frank said the site earns money on commission from third parties such as Amazon, Chegg and Dollarbooks. But students can sell their textbooks for free, and he claims the site users are still getting the best price possible.
He said the site is a powerful insight that now requires minimal effort.
“I think it will help students find required course materials with lot less manual searching,” he said.
The plug-in has been in the Chrome store for a about a month and has been downloaded about 30,000 times.
As of press time, it had an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.
The plug-in comes in a time of increasing textbook prices. Book prices have increased 812 percent since 1978, far more than the 559 percent increase in tuition and fees during that time.
An average of 21.6 percent of the cost of a bookstore textbook goes to the bookstore itself, whether for personnel or operating costs, according to US News and World Report.
Patty Stewart, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she would be interested in using the site and extension to buy and sell books.
“I would definitely sell books there. It seems like a fair playing field,” she said.
She tries to find older editions of textbooks and buy used books from students, but said in previous years, professors have not been so accommodating to those methods.
“Now that I’m older, professors seem to be more into the work rather than the book itself,” she said.
According to a 2008 report from the California Bureau of State Audits, textbook publishers release a new edition of each textbook every 3.9 years, on average.
As a first-year student, she spent $400 in one semester on books, mainly because the books were “big” and she was not as familiar with ways to reduce prices.
Christina Daniels, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, relies on renting books on Amazon as a way to get reduced prices.
She said she would be interested to use a tool to compare prices using the plug-in, especially to see the difference between the bookstore and Amazon.
So far, she estimated she would spend $130 just this semester on several textbooks, including newer editions of psychology textbooks.
“Most of my professors say you could use the older editions, but they have some differences, so I usually just go with the new one,” she said.
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