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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Alternatives to bookstore finally aplenty

Published: September 2, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

At the beginning of each semester, buying books is one of the most important priorities for Brandeis students. While some students rely exclusively on the Brandeis bookstore, it seems that more and more are flocking to alternative establishments, including online stores. Buying books is always an expensive endeavorone that an or a local used book store can make a little less painful.

Buying books at the campus bookstore does have a few benefits. It is easy to access and is also the easiest way to find individual book listings for each course. But one wonders whether those perks are worth the higher prices. One common complaint of students is that course book listings are not easily accessible online

I must commend Jason Brodsky (07), the Student Unions director of academic affairs, for recently posting a partial book listing on the Student Unions website. Though the listing is incomplete, it is a step in the right direction. Recently, the independent website has started advertising around campus to help remedy this problem. The site offers complete listings of each class online, giving students a heads up before they take the course. One improvement that could be made is to have the book listings for the next year be available during the course registration period. This would involve a bit of coordination and foresight but could make signing up for classes a lot smoother.

Brandeis Reading Lists also offers these books for sale. The site maintains that it has The same books that are on the bookstore shelves, but cheaper. The site provides several examples of its books being much cheaper than those at the campus bookstore. On a personal note, I found a nearly new book in a used store for $14 while the same book was $40 on campus. Alternative websites such as,, and have become popular, especially since used books are guaranteed. Brandeis Reading Lists uses the same system as, so the prices are the same. Additionally, a used bookstore called Back Page Books has opened up in Waltham on Moody Street. While the store might not offer everything a student needs, it provides the student and the community a relatively easy-to-access alternative.

Selling the same books is also different when looking at the different online options versus the campus bookstore. The campus bookstores policy can be a little tricky at times. If the books are returned within the two week shopping period, the seller gets a full refund. However, if the books are returned after the shopping period even in perfect condition, the seller only receives a 50% refund (and only if the same books will be used by that professor next year). Selling books via Amazon or even Ebay can be a bit tricky and time consuming. There is no real guarantee on any specific price, although many times the seller might get significantly more than if the book was simply sold back to the bookstore at campus. Amazons standard policy allows the buyer to sell books back for the original price until after 30 days.

The best thing to do when purchasing books is to look at each option and then pick whichever suits ones needs best. As for me, I would purchase the books online, as the prices are significantly cheaper for the most part, and then possibly sell some of the books online through a site like Ebay. Once the question of where to buy the books is finally solved, it will be time to start worrying about reading them all which is an entirely different problem.