Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Beyond the bookstore: Finding your textbooks for reasonable prices

Meredith Schlacter

Most new freshmen at Washington University spend a great deal of money during their first few days on campus. Dorm accessories and ethernet connections are pricey, but they seem cheap when compared to the price of textbooks.

The cost of college textbooks is skyrocketing; a study by the Government Accountability Office recently reported that the cost of textbooks has risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past 20 years.

According to the College Board, the average college student spent between $801 and $904 on textbooks for the 2005-2006 school year.

Buying from the bookstore is certainly pricey, but many freshmen consider it the only option; they rarely know enough upperclassmen to find cheap used books and the bookstore seems so close and convenient.

With a little research, however, students can find both used and new books for much more reasonable prices.

Facebook groups help students selling books reach potential customers within the Wash. U. community. Students belonging to the “WashU Books Listing (textbooks)” group can post information about the books they want to sell and interested students can contact them directly to negotiate prices. This way, students can simply pick up their books from the previous owners.

There are countless online websites selling used and new college textbooks. Some, like, a division of eBay, allow students to set a price for their books and then sell those books to other college students.

A Google search for “college textbooks” brings up hundreds of similar sites.

On students can compare textbook prices, including tax and shipping costs, from different websites, including and

Another more local option is the Lock and Chain book sale at the beginning of each semester. Organized and run by Wash. U. students, Lock and Chain collects used textbooks from students at the end of each semester. The sellers set their own prices at this time. Lock and Chain stores the books until the beginning of the next semester when they have a book sale. Sellers receive 75 percent of their asking price, which is usually more money than the bookstore would pay for used books. Twenty percent of the leftover money goes to charity and the other 80 percent is used for Lock and Chain sponsored activities, like the Major/Minor fair, George Washington week and Sophomore Sizzle.

So, don’t get burned with bookstore prices. Explore other options and expand your wallet.

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