Stony Brook University students buying textbooks this semester may end up with the same heavy load in their backpacks, but a lighter wallet in their pockets.

The university bookstore, located in the Melville Library, is now the only bookstore on site or near campus. Stony Books, the alternative bookstore formerly located across the train tracks on campus, closed its door last October. Stony Books was known for providing students with cheaper prices for textbooks.

Though Stony Books shut down months ago, some students weren’t aware the store was no longer open. Joe Chon was leisurely flipping through books in the campus bookstore last week and was about to leave to go compare prices to  Stony Books.

“I bought most of my books at Stony Books last semester, about three or four of them,” Chon, a junior biology major, said. “It’s a little easier since they would get all your books for you after you give them your schedule.” He said he had not purchased any books for this semester.

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However, Boon Teo, the university bookstore manager, maintains that buying books from the campus bookstore is more convenient.

“The campus bookstore can provide students with the assurance that they are getting the right book for the right course,” Teo wrote in an e-mail correspondence.

When asked, Teo did not comment on whether the closing of Stony Books had increased sales for the semester.

“Detailed sales figures and projections are considered proprietary information and cannot be shared,” Teo wrote.

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However, she noted that the bookstore’s business has increased in the last five years due to the different options available to students. These options include the purchasing of new books, used books or e-textbooks. For some books, a rental option is now available; the price to rent a book is just 45 percent of the cost of the new version of that book.

Teo also said that the number of orders placed online has steadily increased over the last five years.

Students may have noticed that the line to pick up online orders has now moved outside of the store. According to Teo, this is because online ordering has grown in popularity, and the bookstore needed additional space to accommodate those customers and cut down on congestion inside the store.

Although it is located  in the center of campus, the bookstore doesn’t have to be the only option for students this semester. Students can look to their peers to help them save a few or even make a few dollars. Sophomores Misha Mehta and Shanice Douglas created the Facebook group “Taking Charge – Stony Brook University (Sell/Buy Your Books!).”

The group was created during the spring 2010 semester after Douglas noticed how expensive books were to buy and how little students received when they sold them back to the bookstore. At that time, however, only a few of Mehta and Douglas’ friends were members of the group. They all had similar majors and it wasn’t very effective, he said.

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After hearing about Stony Books’ closing, Mehta decided to take some action.

“I sent out a mass e-mail to people during winter break telling them to try using our group for the upcoming semester since Stony Books is gone,” Mehta said. Since the start of the semester, the number of members in the group has spiked to 581.

The group  is a combination of things that the creators felt everyone ignored before.

“We’ve all gotten those random e-mails from people who are selling their books or seen all the fliers around campus, but they’re ignored,” Mehta said. “The group can bring people together.”

One member of the group, Melani Tiongson, almost exclusively used Stony Books to buy her books before it closed. The only time Tiongson, a sophomore, would use the university bookstore was for books that could not be found or purchased anywhere else.

“For example, the EST 201 book is completely new this semester, so there is no online or used version anywhere,” Tiongson wrote in an e-mail.

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The group has a series of discussion board threads organized by class subject. For example, if a student has a book for organic chemistry that they are looking to sell, they would go to the chemistry thread. Group members are allowed to post the name of the book they have and their contact information. However, no price negotiation can take place on the thread.

“The group could get too congested and you also don’t want anyone else interfering on the deal you want to make,” Douglas explained.

Still, every semester, the university bookstore tries to offer as many used books as  possible; the used books at the bookstore are 25 percent cheaper than the new books.

Tiongson has sold two books for classes through the Facebook group and believes it’s a better deal than the bookstore.

“The Bookstore usually underpays you when you sell books back to them,” Tiongson wrote.

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2 comments

  1. ebooks and rentals have brought down the cost for many students, but there is a clear issue with the pricing at the B&N campus bookstore. For one thing, books for which versions exist on the non-textbook rack are cheaper than the versions placed behind the counter listed as texts.

    Moreover, SUNY press books are inflated to twice their amazon.com price at the bookstore. Its disgraceful that a SUNY campus cant even maintain a decent price for SUNY press publications.

    This past semester, my total textbook cost at the bookstore: $659, versus ordering off of amazon.com: $350. If the difference was on one or two books I wouldn’t care, but the fact that the bookstore wants almost double the price for the same books is just insanity.

    I encourage my classmates to do the work ahead of time, look on solar for their textbooks listings and ISBN’s, contact their profs to confirm the version and package details, and buy anything you can anywhere else.

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