Jeremy Papasso
University of Colorado student Evan Michalec watches as employees Kerrie Summerhays, left, and Justice Cook carry away his textbooks after selling them back to the CU bookstore inside on May 10 at the University Memorial Center on the Boulder campus.

Along with the school year comes the every-semester conundrum of acquiring the mountains of books students need to get throughout the semester. Thus, the decisions begin — new, used or rental? Online, or in a bookstore?

The CU Book Store and the Colorado Bookstore (on the Hill) both carry CU course textbooks. Both offer new, used and rental textbooks, but the CU Book Store, located inside the University Memorial Center, is the official bookstore of the University of Colorado. The Colorado Bookstore is run by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc., a nationwide university book distributor.

Brian Groves, the director of retail services at the CU Book Store said the traditional method of buying new or used books and then selling them back for cash at the end of the semester is becoming outdated. Instead, Groves said students are choosing to rent books for cheaper prices and forgoing the cash payback.

“More and more kids are renting books,” Groves said. “The rental market has continued to grow the past couple of years.”

There are no guarantees how much money students will get back after buying new or used books, Groves said, and the amount paid back to the student depends on if the book is requested by professors in the following semester.

Groves said the CU Book Store began the rental system three years ago with only 12 titles available for rent. But this fall, 97 percent of the bookstore’s catalogue — 3,600 books — will be offered for rent, he said. The three percent not included are non-returnable books, such as lab manuals and online access codes.

But some students look at bookstore prices — the sixth edition of “Principles of Microeconomics” is priced $225.95 new, $165.50 used, and $99 for rent at the CU Book Store, for example — and start looking elsewhere, even with the rental option.

Incoming freshman Elise Semenoff said she hopes to find cheaper prices on discount websites like Chegg.com, Amazon.com and Half.com.

“I’m just going to get used books online,” said Semenoff, who is planning to buy her books on Amazon.com.

(On Amazon.com, the cheapest price listed for the sixth edition of “Principles of Microeconomics” is $58.90 for a used copy.)

CU anthropology and film studies graduate Jacki Altman said she also preferred to buy used books online because of cheaper prices.

“I bought my books online on discount websites mostly, unless I needed something specific that could only be found at the bookstore,” Altman said. “Most of the books were used because they were cheaper and it was easy to order them early and get them sent to my house so I was ready for school.”

But Groves counters that it’s convenient to return and exchange books at the bookstore before the return deadline if professors change required texts, rather than being hassled with mailing books back to the sender and reordering from another source.

Plus, Groves adds, spending money at the CU Book Store rather than buying books online or at another bookstore favors the university and the students.

“One of the main benefits is we are owned by the university, and the money spent on campus usually stays on campus,” said Groves.

Contact writer Jake Hazan at jake.hazan@colorado.edu.

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