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University Textbook Exchange Software 324

Posted by michael
from the cut-out-the-middleman dept.
PageMap writes "With the textbook-buying season upon us, many universities and student organizations are attempting to combat the on-campus bookstore's overcharging by starting up their own grassroots book exchange efforts. The problem is the seeming lack of available web-based software to facilitate an efficient book exchange. Is there such a thing as free web-based software made for this type of use?"
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University Textbook Exchange Software

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  • UT has one (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lane.exe (672783) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:46AM (#6842834) Homepage
    I'm not sure if it's free or not, but the University of Texas [utexas.edu] has a book exchange. I've never used it personally, but I know people who have and they've always been satisfied with it.
  • Seems Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l810c (551591) * on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:47AM (#6842837)
    Depending on how you wanted to do it, it seems like it would be fairly easy to modify a store front or auction software to handle the specifics of text books.
    • Re:Seems Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by yintercept (517362)
      A large number of students seem to be using amazon.com, half.com, powells, and or ebay to sell off and buy text books.

      Why not use the blood sucking immoral capitistic programs provided by the free market?
  • by cliffy2000 (185461) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:48AM (#6842840) Journal
    At my school, we kept PDFs of the student solutions manuals on the school network. This was probably a violation of copyright law, but it's an effective countermeasure to being charged $40 for a tiny paperback book.
  • Forum? (Score:5, Informative)

    by shadowcabbit (466253) * <cx.thefurryone@net> on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:49AM (#6842843) Journal
    Why not just set up a BBS/forum? Plenty of free ones exist (phpBB, phorum being the two most popular), and a little moderation and regulation (i.e. one forum has offers, one side has requests), you could easily have an alternative to the campus bookstore.
    • Re:Forum? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp.freeshell@org> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:43AM (#6843018) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, my university (Purdue) actually has one of it's own: "purdue.forsale.books" which is on the university's news server.

      There are also purdue.forsale.housing, purdue.forsale.computer, and purdue.forsale.misc.

      I use them all the time to get stuff. I built my computer off of parts I obtained from the newsgroups, actually.

      Easily searchable, fast because it runs off the schools servers (which I use to access it). I imagine there's something like that at a lot of schools, and there are just lots of students who don't know about it.
  • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yerricde (125198) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:50AM (#6842846) Homepage Journal

    What you are looking for is consumer-to-consumer sales software. This is often done with an auction model [ebay.com]. However, most technologies to do C2C are patented out the you-know-whatse in many jurisdictions, either by eBay or by the latest holding company to sue eBay.

  • Auction software (Score:5, Informative)

    by madsen (17668) <madsen@nospam.iki.fi> on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:51AM (#6842849) Homepage
    Take a look at MySQLauction [servers-r-us.com].
    Freshmeat [freshmeat.net] is also a good startting point.
  • In the meantime.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by l810c (551591) * on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:51AM (#6842851)
    Links to cheap textbooks [clarkhoward.com]
  • Creating a Monster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fbroooooz (545056) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:52AM (#6842857) Homepage
    When my parents went to school they actively participated in a grassroots book exchange program to protest the high priced book and supply store that had all the business. By the time I started taking classes at that same school, the small book exchange they started had transformed into an equally evil and overpriced textbook boutique.

    Perhaps politics and bureaucracy are the main roadblocks to creating something like this instead of html, cgi, and perl.

    • by TopShelf (92521) *
      Perhaps politics and bureaucracy are the main roadblocks to creating something like this instead of html, cgi, and perl.

      Or perhaps, natural economic forces? Lots of students who absolutely have to purchase a given item, and few (or in many cases, one practical) sources of supply.
    • As a veteran of the textbook acquisition game, here are some rules by which any university or college student should live and die:

      1. Don't buy new books right off the bat. This should be obvious. You can get it used later on, or you might find out that the textbook for the course has changed or it's gone to a new version. Profs won't expect you to have the texts on the first day, or not even the first week when you're in first year.

      2. Don't put your trust in any heavily advertised "We'll buy your used textbooks" program. They'll pay you $15 for a $90 textbook and then sell it for $67.50.

      3. Do find out who the professor of your course is. And then compare your knowledge with the knowledge of the people who took it last year. If it's the same professor then you can probably dive into the used book market. If not, wait until you get the course outline or other official piece of information and get the actual title and volume, and then you'll know if the people with the used books have what you want.

      4. If you are trying to get your books early and can't get a course outline to find out what book will be used for a course, then try scouting the 'official' bookstores because they usually know well in advance and have everything labelled in their stock supplies on the shelves. I always go on a scouting trip in early september with a notepad and take notes on prices to make sure people selling used books aren't selling above the retail prices. (This does happen once in a while.) On this scouting trip, I usually end up explaining to some first year kid and their parents why they should put down that $500 stack of books and wait for used books.

      5. One you are sure of what books you actually do need, then make it your religion to scour those used books boards (online or not) and if you see something you want, then phone them up instantly and pick it up.

      6. When you have all your books, don't go writing in them or whatnot. You want to have them keep their value so you can sell then for $5 less in the next semester. Remember that you can sell a used book for almost exactly the same as you got it (or probably even more) but with new books, your profit ceiling is probably only 75% of the retail price since the 'official' store's supply of used books is generally priced at this level.

      • You local college bookstore is a great place to get stuff like ISBN numbers so that you can do a detailed lookup at amazon or elsewhere. This summer I called the UTA bookstore looking for ISBN numbers for a class of mine. What follows is the conversation:

        Me: "Hi there, I'm looking for the textbook for INSY 3300"
        Bkstr: "Ok, that'd be this book. It's $90.00 new and $89.00 used"
        Me: "Great! Could I get the ISBN number for that book?"
        Bkstr: "No. We don't quote ISBNs and other info like that over the phone"
        Me: "
  • Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:53AM (#6842861)
    Called Amazon.com Marketplace [amazon.com]. Gotta have a checking account to sell and a valid credit card to buy. Reasonable prices and scam-free transactions (if you're a seller), although Bezos does take a 10% cut of the sale.

    I had about 3 orders come in this weekend for the books that have been on the shelves and listed on Amazon.com used market for 2 months or so.
  • by jgaynor (205453) <jon@gaynorELIOT.org minus poet> on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:55AM (#6842867) Homepage
    A Member of the Rutgers University Student Linux Users Group [rutgers.edu] has created just such a thing here at RU using PHP and MySQL. The site is hosted on our server here:

    http://ruslug.rutgers.edu/bookswap/ [rutgers.edu]

    I'm not completely familiar with the project - there's an "about this site" [rutgers.edu] page, but no real mention of a license in regards to the php scripts being used. The author's link is on the about page - try emailing him.

    Hope that helps and good luck sticking it to those bastards at efollet [efollet.com] who, whether you know it yet or not, probably run your school's bookstore!
    • by H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:44AM (#6843021) Homepage
      SPU also runs a similar service which, while I did not design, I was in charge of upkeeping for a year and had to do some fairly major rehauling. It's designed using ASP with an exchange database (I know, I know...), but it might be worth checking out:

      http://199.237.180.240/be/ [199.237.180.240]

      I might even have the source for the asp pages, if anybody wants them. The main difficulty for a project like this though, is getting the word out. The best system is useless if 80% of students don't know about it. Whoever plans to undertake something like this should make sure they have a good advertising plan laid out.
    • I know efollet runs my school's bookstore, and they have the worst prices (both buying and selling used) I've ever seen. Those bastards are terrible. Luckily I was able to borrow one textbook, inherit another (someone passed the class and I got it) and just skip another, so I don't have to pay for all those damn things.
    • Get more bucks for your books [morebucks.org]

      This link is to a book swapping site my cousin and I whipped up in PHP and MySQL for students at our university. For being just a small effort, it actually has attracted quite a bit of attention- we've had an article about the site in the school newspaper as well as the city newspaper that got picked up by the AP and printed all over the country. We've just recently been sponsered by the student government who is now paying for the webhosting, domain name, and any other cost
    • I posted a question [rutgers.edu] in the forum.
    • w00t!

      I wrote that thing! :-)

      I have the source if anyone wants it, although I ... can't say that the code is the best in the world.

      It was a personal project, actually, since one of the first times I was exposed to Linux doing something useful was a perl and postgresql installation doing something vaguely similar. (I haven't managed to find the cool embroidered patch banner/button that they used for Linux at the bottom of their page, though. Anyone have it?)

      Hey, sure. If anyone wants the code, I can packa
  • by AsmordeanX (615669) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:57AM (#6842877)
    In my first two years I faithfully bought my books from either the campus bookstore or the student union run bookstore (student's consign their books)

    Then I discovered Chapters (Maybe Amazon is the same) would order almost anything. Of course there was a week or two waiting period but when you are talking $63.50 versus $118.95 it is worth it.

    So if your prof. insists on using new books or has to have the latest edition, don't forget book stores. Even smaller ones can sometimes order in texts, you just have to pay in advance because they can't sell it to normal people if you don't buy.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Two things.

      First I recommend people check with their local used book store. Some of them throw away textbooks.

      Second my school would change the books used every semester to "combat" this recycling. (Oh they would never say that to your face)
    • I started a C/S course in 1994, and likewise dutifully purchased all my texts. I stalled a bit the next year but bought most of them again. Finally it dawned on me that I was getting nothing out of them, wasn't using them, and could have purchased them half price from the "i'm only at uni because that's what I thought I was supposed to do after school" dropouts. (OT flamebait - how can Universities claim they need more places when (in my experience) 80% of first year enrollments eventually drop out, and sho
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:57AM (#6842879)
    How dare you say we (association of campus book stores) are overcharging students? You piece of shit! We're charging a fair price so you pampered little fuckers getting subsidized education on public dimes (mine included, but not willingly or happily so). You ingrate! I see you little pricks come in the store and I just know 99% of you weasels will amount to NOTHING despite your silver spoon fed pampered ass getting a paid education by daddy and taxpayer. If you don't like paying for the books, just photocopy them from a friend (not like you're buying music or movies now anyway, you copyright violating little fucks), or better yet, pay to have your papers written on your behalf and your exam grades altered.

    You people make me sick! In fact, I'm almost tempted to bring a loaded semi-automatic with me to work tomorrow and see how fast I can make you fuckers run.
    • Have some ritalin (Score:4, Insightful)

      by C10H14N2 (640033) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:29AM (#6842979)
      I'm glad to see your college education was successful enough for you to still be completely oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of university tuition financing is through private finace -- student loans are almost always merely guaranteed by the government but not a single dime of your-hard-earned-tax-dollars are spent. The fact that it is subsidized in very limited circumstances (extreme financial need or extreme academic achievement) is quickly mooted by the fact that most college graduates pay taxes the rest of their lives as their parents and children no doubt will..
    • I realize that the above was probably supposed to be funny but the stereotypes played upon should be addressed.

      Yes, most of my tuition was paid for by outside help, but MOST of that was student loans that I had to pay later. There were some grants and scholarships. I had to kick in about 20% up front, meaning that I had to earn that money while going to school.

      As for overcharging bookstores, it may very well be true, but with my bookstore, I would compare with Amazon.com and other stores and come out ab
  • You could... oh, I don't know... Write it yourself? About a thousand lines of C code (not much) done by an amateur programmer (like myself, in fact, I can think of how to do it right now, were I not so lazy, and the most advanced programming course I've taken is CS 102) and you're done.
    • Re:DIY (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xerithane (13482)
      Web Based? In C? This is why amateur programmers don't do large scale projects.

      It is a fairly simple procedure, but if you don't know about code why don't you stop telling people to do it themselves. It's obviously outside of your grasp, and if you think that 1,000 lines of C code could come close I'll pay you a dollar a line to come up with a complete P2P book selling server with client software that is cross platform.
      • If you're actually serious about the $1000/kline thing I'll do it. It'd be totally worth my time
      • You know something? That's a great deal. Seeing as few semantics in C are line-break sensitive(excluding macros and directives), I bet I could squeeze it all on 999 lines exactly. Including trailing line break on EOF!

        That'll be $999 please. I'll get that software to you by the end of the day.
      • by thynk (653762)
        Good lord, they are not asking for anyone to recreate half.com or amazon.com. A couple tables in a sql server (2 tables, 3 fields each), a simple web interface and some cgi so people can contact each other with offers/trades.

        i don't know that I'd do this in C, most of my cgi was done with perl. I'd be willing to take up this project if I had more time and if the last cgi I wrote wasn't a few years back yet.

        It doesn't need to be more complex than the user needs it to be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:04AM (#6842896)
    As recently mentioned on this very site:

    www.communitybooks.org
  • by mrscorpio (265337) <twoheadedboy@stonepoo l . com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:05AM (#6842899)
    But subverting one of the university's ways of making money just means they have to raise tuition...they'll get it from somewhere.

    I feel it would be more relevant, realistic, and admirable to instead try to get your university to divert less funds into the sports programs, and more into academia.

    Chris
    • If they did that, they'd be a Canadian university.
    • by Ender77 (551980)
      Universities get most of there money back at sports games. That is why so much money is spent on them and less is spent on the academics.
      • by mrscorpio (265337) <twoheadedboy@stonepoo l . com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:54AM (#6843055)
        That's a common myth...even ESPN states the fact that only a select handful of schools make money off of sports. Most are far into the red, trying to keep up with the marketing/recruitment of the more successful schools...

        Chris
        • Well, I'm sure my school [ohio-state.edu] is one of those select schools.
        • Even the NCAA admits it: "Virtually every one of the NCAA's member schools regularly loses money on athletic programs, and spending more on sports does not guarantee winning more, the NCAA said Thursday."

          Here's coverage of the NCAA report by the Miami Herald [miami.com]

    • You sir, are partially silly.

      You say that it's cool for the university to hide some of its tuition in the form of overcharging for books?!? Universities get large amounts of moneys from donors and the government (in civilized places). Nickel and diming the students isn't the solution to any financial shortfalls that they do have.

      However I agree that lots of U's waste money on sports bigtime. Universities should be powerhouses of thought and innovation, better college sports doesn't make for any real pro

    • But subverting one of the university's ways of making money just means they have to raise tuition...

      So that's what higher education is all about. I've always wondered.
    • by chota (577760)
      Actually, that's not quite right...

      At most Universities (at least in the US), the bookstore, dining services, and (in most places) the housing department and sports teams are what's known as Auxilliary Services. They receive no money from the University, and must make their own profit. The only thing they receive is the right to associate themselves with the name of the institution.

      At least here at UWM(.edu), these Auxilliary services don't even get to use the official University logo! They had to crea
  • U of A has one... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Grasshelix (534691) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:06AM (#6842900)
    We have one that was designed by our WWW Interest Group here on campus: wig.uark.edu/bookswap
  • by cfarivar (655668) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:07AM (#6842903) Homepage
    There's also Come Get Used [comegetused.com] over here at Berkeley.
  • Book Exchange... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ramses0 (63476) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:07AM (#6842904)
    Hi. Our uni (UT-Dallas) put this together. Hi B/M. :^)

    Demo site:
    http://olbe.studentgov.com/

    Project page:
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/bookex/

    Have fun. These seem to be reasonably successful implementations.

    --Robert
  • by toxic666 (529648) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:09AM (#6842913)
    Profs have this one down cold: change the text each semester. Most of the 300 and 400 level classes I took had a new textbook each semseter, so selling the old one was worthless because there was no market.

    I still have my Economic Geology (ore deposits) text, and it is a joke. It had little to do with the course material and was useless as reference for finding economic minerals. It was a compilation of theoretical publications.

    Fortunately, the prof also sold his lecture notes. Luckily, all the test questions came from the notes, so we all had a chance to pass the class.
    • My favorite trick is when the professor writes the textbook for his class and then has you write all your homework solutions in the book. Sorry, you can't sell a book that's been written all over...
      • Sorry, you can't sell a book that's been written all over...

        Wow, glad no one ever told the people I bought used textbooks from about that one.

        The favorite scam I ever saw played was when the prof would compile a list of sections from different books, take the infomation down the local Kinkos and have them do booklets for like $10.00. I seem to remember asking about how this was legal, he'd written a great deal of it, a lot of the information was PD and I think the rest fell under fair use. He'd even ha
    • Blame the Publishers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ancarett (221103) on Monday September 01, 2003 @07:41AM (#6843666)
      As a professor, I can tell you that we feel captive to the publishers. For first-year surveys they have a deliberate policy of issuing new editions of textbooks every two years or less! With new paginations, new chapters and no availability of the older editions from warehouses, you pretty much have to bite the bullet and go with the new to ensure there are enough texts on hand for your freshman class.

      And the reason that upper year course books change often can be two-fold. One is that the professor is just as disappointed as you (often having adopted the text sight unseen six months before the start of classes). The other common problem with text carryover is different professor teach much different courses under the same title. Some department get around this by adopting a standard text for shared classes, but that usually only applies to the more general, lower-level courses.

      There are some cost-effective options -- custom readers from publishers like Pearson [pearsoncustom.com] in my field are amazingly cheap. With their material, I've put together a tutorial reader covering an entire term for 21.95 US. That's less than half the cost of a lousy course package photocopy set put together by our monopolistic bookstore.
  • UK Book Exchange (Score:3, Interesting)

    by koniosis (657156) <koniosis AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:15AM (#6842932)
    UK Based Book Exchange [books4students.co.uk] Very good, Very free.
  • for New York State Universities

    http://www.sunyexchange.com
  • by Navreet (703315) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:18AM (#6842939)
    A bunch of us at UIUC started one too (ABSOLUTELY FREE):

    Illini Book Exchange [illinibookexchange.com], and we WANT to share our code and expand to other universities.

    We've started atleast 4 other book exchanges at other universities recently (Cornell being one of them).

    Here are some numbers [illinibookexchange.com]

    (Basically in 8 months, ~$100,000 worth of trades, over 2000 users and 2500 trades).

    So, if you want us to help just get a hold of us through: here. [illinibookexchange.com]
  • by bstadil (7110)
    Amazon Marketplace [amazon.com] has a whole new section for selling and buying Textbooks.

    They claim it takes 60 sec to make your textbooks available via their Used Textbooks section. Worth trying to sell one or two just to see how it works.

  • Amazon (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrpuffypants (444598) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <stnapyffuprm>> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:33AM (#6842994)
    Put your books for sale on Amazon and buy your new books from amazon used as well. Not only do you get a far better selling price but you also get to buy and sell directly to other students rather than having to deal with the nasty campus bookstore.

    They already have a lot of users and you get a better market that trying to sell just to students at your tiny liberal arts school.

    Do what I did: I listed all my textbooks on Amazon marketplace and Half.com at the same time. When one sold one one site I pulled it from the other. In the end I made enough money to buy my new books from Amazon/Half used from other students.
  • Check out dogears.net [dogears.net]. The guy who started it's an undergrad at Columbia. He offers the service to university without charge, if I remember it right. Works well, too.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...welcome our new bookswapping non-coding overlords. I'd like to remind them as a trusted Slashdot personality and accomplished programmer, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground book swapping software production caves.

    (pssst...write your own software)

    Anonymous? Not for me...I stand behind my comments!
  • Open textbooks. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Oscar_Wilde (170568) on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:40AM (#6843011) Homepage
    What about getting Universities to use open content textbooks? [wikipedia.org]

    I know this isn't a viable idea just yet and that it won't help people who need a particular text book for what ever course but it would be nice to be able to learn something new and complex without having to pay a million private companies for the privilege.

    (I wonder how many slashdot readers it would take to whip up a first rate textbook for C programming)
    • I'd write my own textbook before I went to wikipedia -- from all I've seen in many visits, it's informative but often disconnected and occasionally superficial. It's an encyclopedia -- a reference to look up background information on topics of your choice, so don't expect more than that.

      Texts that I use for intro courses in my field are written by teams of experts (to cover all the different specialties) and peer-reviewed by dozens of other professors. I agree they are too expensive, but at least they ha
      • First, the quality of Wikipedia texts is very heterogenous. There are superficial "stubs" but there are also in depth analyses of a particular, often obscure subject. It really depends on the writer and on the motivation. Some articles are far superior to what you would find in any other encyclopedia. Some are laughably wrong but will get updated sooner or later.

        Second, you did not actually follow the link. It points to the Wiki-Textbook project, which is independent from Wikipedia.

      • It's an encyclopedia -- a reference to look up background information on topics of your choice, so don't expect more than that.

        Actually that link was to the Wikibooks project which is a project separate to the Wikipedia (but part of the same overall group of projects). The idea with Wikibooks is to create "modules" little sections that can be gathered up and turned into textbooks (of course with copyediting, indexing, etc).

        There are also other Wikimedia projects [wikimedia.org] underway.
    • (I wonder how many slashdot readers it would take to whip up a first rate textbook for C programming)
      If you had more than two, indefinitely long. It would take years to decide on cuddled or non-cuddled elses.
  • Examples (Score:2, Informative)

    by polanyi (695506)
    During the past year, on campus there have been three student attempts to tap the textbook market, of which two were textbook exchanges that involved commissions. (The other was an attempt in half.com arbitrage.) Only a textbook exchange [pantherlink.com] has survived, though it had to change its name after the University threatened a lawsuit over copyrights. There are 641 books listed, but I'm not sure if any are actually moving.
  • by Ender77 (551980)
    At my University, Most of the classes have brand new books(none are less than a hundread dollars) every semester. This is too keep people from buying cheeper used books or getting FREE books from classmates who already took the class.
  • UB's System (Score:3, Interesting)

    by numark (577503) * <jcolson AT ndgonline DOT com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:52AM (#6843049) Homepage Journal
    Here at the University at Buffalo, our Student Association has created their own Book Exchange [buffalo.edu] system in what appears to be ASP. This is probably the best solution, as each college can customize their own system to their specific needs. (I'm not too sure I'm big on ASP, being a PHP fan myself, but it seems to work out well.)
  • I list and buy all my textbooks on half.com. You can find pretty much any book you need, and make a ton of money by selling your books back at reasonable prices.
  • by borgasm (547139)
    I would set up a phpBB forum.

    Give each department its own section. Have users list the books by title, ISBN, and asking price.

    Since the server is searchable, and browsable by department, people should have no trouble finding buyers/sellers.
  • isnt this usually in violation of the bookstore contract with the university?
  • That is it my friends, capitalism at it's best. Education should be a priority-especially in these times as it seems America is out-sourcing everything, but then again, capitalism is about making money-not helping the society. Any how I hope more exchanges as these show up, why should the publishers that change a few pictures and spelling errors make money? (I know I might have a few but you're not paying me to fix them!)
  • by BenjyD (316700) on Monday September 01, 2003 @04:26AM (#6843247)
    At uni, we had this highly advanced object oriented system called a notice board. Students with books to sell instantiated a notice object (potentially sub-classed to add funcionality such as tear off phone numbers strips) and a drawing pin object. Combine the two with the singleton class noticeboard object and you have an advert.
  • http://mit411.com (Score:2, Informative)

    by donsaklad (618122)
    See also
    http://mit411.com [mit411.com]
  • Humboldt State University in CA has one too. We smoke plenty of weed, but we still have enough in the way of brain cells to know that book stores prices are garbage.
  • don't buy 'em (Score:4, Interesting)

    by misterpies (632880) on Monday September 01, 2003 @06:14AM (#6843485)
    Don't by the recommended books, because they won't help. Seriously, unless the prof actually teaches straight out of the book (in which case, why take the class -- you can learn it by yourself), you shouldn't need them. Instead, listen in class and take good notes.

    My experience (and I've had plenty in higher education) is that it's almost always more helpful to buy books NOT on the lecturer's list. Why? Because most lecturers recommend books that present things in the same way they teach them (ie they recommend the books they base their courses on). So if there's something you don't understand in class, a book won't help if it explains things in the same way.

    As a maths/physics student I found the Dover series to be great. Cheap (under $10 a few years back), student-level texts by authors whose understanding of the subject far exceeds that of most lecturers. Schrodinger on quantum mechanics, Einstein on relativity, Fermi on thermodynamics, Lanczos on classical mechanics...They might not be of much direct help with problem sets, but they're great for giving insights into the subject. They do have a couple of drawbacks, though -- in some subjects they can be out of date (so you're safe with most maths and undergrad physics, not so good on genetics...). The other one is that they often assume quite a lot of knowledge about related subjects, which means you then have to buy another Dover book on that etc. But that's part of the fun.
  • There was a slashdot story on a "distributed library" ... people sharing books person-to-person that might be useful. People can list what they have to share/sell and others can search.

    http://www.communitybooks.org/ has the software

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/24/1257 213&mode=thread&tid=185

  • I live in a socialist nation where the campus bookstore sells at ordinary prices with an added student discount, you insensitive clod.

    Oh, and tuition is $50/semester. Punishing people economically for wanting an education is just plain wrong.

  • by TheTurb (575251) <theturb@@@yahoo...com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @08:30AM (#6843830) Homepage
    For everyone here who complains about college text prices, how many have actually WORKED in a a college bookstore? It's easy to accuse of price-gouging when you have no understanding of how the industry actually works. The biggest offenders are the publishers, not the stores.

    When a new textbook package comes with worthless CDs (or in one case, 3D glasses!!) advertised as "free add-ons", it achieves several things. First, by only making these worthless packages available instead of the book by itself, the publisher can basically force professors and students to buy new editions every year. Second, it can then raise the price liberally to account for the so-called "free" material. Publishers HATE used books, and go to some odd lengths to prevent used copies from being viable for very long.

    Yeah, high prices suck. I have to pay them too. However, at least I know who is really at fault when I do.
    • I work at my college store too, and you're 100% right. Publishers won't even sell you a textbook by itself anymore a lot of the time. They only come with CDs/DVDs/online subscription cards in a lot of cases now. A prof wants this book, and when we order it it comes with all this crap that the professor probably doesn't need but the publisher won't sell it to us without. And of course it can't be returned without all the crap.

      But nobody ever bothers to find out the facts before just bashing the bookstore f
  • You can sell your books back to the bookstore when you're done with them. You get money, the bookstore gets used books to sell at reduced price.
  • The Distributed Library Project as discussed here [slashdot.org] might be a good option. The software itself can be found at Thoughtcrime.org [thoughtcrime.org]
  • SINAPSE (Score:2, Informative)

    by areric (692338)
    There is an open source, free portal program for university use called SINapse. You can find it here www.sinapse.org [sinapse.org]. It offers a book exchange module and its released under the GPL
  • by jdjdac (703401) on Monday September 01, 2003 @12:52PM (#6845040) Homepage
    Some inventive ISU (Iowa State University) students have developed their own website for a textbook exchange, and have even implemented an auction system as well.

    Cheggpost.com [cheggpost.com]

    I have used it myself many times, and have saved lots of money. I really despise our university bookstore, so I try not to go there as much as possible.

    Otherwise, I buy my books online from Half.com or Ecampus.com [ecampus.com].

  • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Monday September 01, 2003 @01:36PM (#6845231) Journal
    http://textswap.com [textswap.com]

    You can use the site or download and install a single university version.

    I've used it in the past, and was about to reinstall and promote our site. It works well.

  • by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot&cvilleweekly,com> on Monday September 01, 2003 @02:16PM (#6845369)
    It's slightly off-topic, but you should be aware that there are some online textbook catalogs that have been smoking made crack.

    Case in point?

    BookCentral.com [bookcentral.com], where you can get "Brand New Textbooks [at] Used prices".

    Apparently, for them used prices mean offering books at 140-170% of list price.

    Here's an example:

    Flatland's list price is $30 (according to Amazon [amazon.com]). BookCentral has it for a mere $43.02 [bookcentral.com]. Wow!

    See? The campus bookstore isn't all that bad, really.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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