COLUMBUS - Ohio college students continue to turn to the Internet to buy used, discounted textbooks, sometimes saving hundreds of dollars they otherwise would have spent on new books a trend that also reflects the buying habits of students elsewhere in the country.
About 23 percent of U.S. students bought textbooks on-line in 2005, up from 16 percent in 2003, according to The National Association of College Stores.
About one-third of those who bought purchased books on line in 2005, the most recent year in which figures were available, bought the books from their college bookstores and paid bookstore prices. But Web sites such as Amazon.com and Half.com are drawing more students with prices as much as half off of bookstore tags.
Freshman Chris Nester and a steady stream of students purchased books at Ohio State's campus bookstore on Wednesday, the first day of classes. Nester said he had to spend $610 because he was too late to buy used books.
Afton Gladman, a junior at Otterbein College in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, typically spends $100 a quarter for books, saving up to $500 each time by only buying books on-line.
Finding used textbooks is easy, she said. Typing "college textbooks" into Google produces a number of sites.
Andrea Tarr, another Otterbein College junior, said she recently found a used copy of a $200 math book on-line for $40.
"I hear a lot of kids complaining about how they spent $400 for a couple of books at the bookstore, and it blows my mind that people would do that," she said.
The best way to search is by using the 10-digit International Standard Book Number attached to each edition of each book, Gladman said. A book's ISBN is listed in college bookstores and can be found at some Web sites by entering the book's title, author and edition, she said.
Gladman compares on-line prices from several vendors and tries to buy several books from the same seller to save on shipping charges. Once a semester is complete, she often sells her books to the Otterbein bookstore, sometimes for the same amount she paid on-line.
On-line book sales are causing bookstore revenues to fall, said Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Association of College Stores. But given the cost of textbooks, he doesn't expect bookstores to cut prices to compete.
"Students still have the convenience factor at a bookstore," he said. "And we fight to keep the books as affordable as possible."
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