CampusWise, a new textbook service, offers VCU students a new method for getting their school supplies for cheap this semester.
Textbook prices have risen 800 percent in the last 30 years, and the U.S. alone generates an annual revenue of $14 billion in the industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I always thought it was kind of exaggerated but it turns out it’s not. Textbooks are very, very expensive,” said Emily Himes, an incoming VCU freshman. “You can have three textbooks to a single class that are a hundred dollars each and you don’t realize how quickly that adds up.”
Around the VCU Campus are three notable textbook services: Barnes & Noble, BookHolders, and Virginia Book Company. Then there are online services like Amazon, Textbooks.com and Chegg.
These companies profit by purchasing textbooks at a drastically lower price and then selling them at market value. In contrast, CampusWise charges a flat 10 percent fee and the students decide what price they’ll sell the textbook for when they are connected to other students and the transaction takes place in person.
“I was in the same struggle as everyone else of buying textbooks at the bookstore for way too much money and hardly using them,” said Max Hall, who is a student at Old Dominion University and a cofounder of CampusWise. “Then going back to the same bookstore at the end of the semester and trying to sell them back and hardly getting anything.”
The launch of the CampusWise service was initially met with some weariness.
“Students are so used to having spam sent their way that their automatic reaction towards new and innovative textbook services is not always easy to trust,” Hall said.
Some students say they prefer the convenience and safety of having books delivered or picking them up at the bookstore without having to pay CampusWise’s delivery fee.
“It’s kind of sketchy. It’s kind of like Craigslist, and stuff like that makes me kind of nervous,” Himes said. “I think I’d preferably get my textbook online and have it delivered to my door, than meet another student in person.”
Publishing companies, including Peason Education, Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education and others walk the line of price fixing through the release of annual editions and regular legal action against emerging retailers.
One retailer, Texts.com, released a browser extension called OccupyTheBookstore that gained attention after being threatened with legal action by the Follett Higher Education Group. It functioned by comparing the prices of textbooks on other websites when browsing a campus bookstore’s online shop.
“That extension was a great idea and we were really impressed with it,” said Hall. “We’re always happy to see those things go well and when the lawsuit happened we couldn’t believe it. We haven’t had an issue like that yet.”
Spectrum Editor, Austin Walker
Austin is a sophomore print journalism major. He started at the CT as a contributing writer, and frequently covers work done by artists and performers both on and off campus. He hopes to one day be a columnist writing about art that impacts culture, politics and documenting the lives of extraordinary and everyday people. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn