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How Much Did You Spend on Your Textbooks?

Do Research and Save Money

Korina Leong, Senior Staff Writer
Matt Arellano, Photographer
Kellie Miyazu, Graphic Designer

New classes at the beginning of a semester typically means new textbooks are required. Buying textbooks at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Bookstore has it’s pros and cons.
Jason Tanaka, UH Hilo Bookstore manager and alumni, understands the struggle of buying textbooks with the prices that are currently being charged. To alleviate the pressure on students, the bookstore recently purchased a program that compares prices of textbooks sold in the bookstore with the prices of textbooks from popular online retailers. Tanaka explained in an interview that, “Transparency is the key.”
The bookstore wants students to know that they have other options. Once in the bookstore students can find their courses in alphabetical and numerical order with signs being posted about the required textbooks for each course. In the hopes of helping students save money the bookstore tries to buy used books from wholesalers as well as offer a buyback program every semester.
At the end of each semester the Buyback Program allows students to sell back textbooks, no matter how they were paid for and where they were purchased for cash. The bookstore then resells these textbooks the following semester at the lower price. According to Tanaka, the textbooks that the bookstore buys back are only those that instructors will be using again the following semester. The bookstore tries to buy back books for at least half of the “new book retail price.”
If UH Hilo and Hawaii Community College will not be using a certain textbook the following semester the bookstore tries to find other campuses who are in search of certain textbooks and, therefore, may buy them. Sometimes the wholesaler that the bookstore does their purchasing from will ask for certain books, but they tend to offer less money for them because of the risk they take in purchasing books that may or may not resell to other universities. The buyback program is based on demand.
Another program that the UH Hilo Bookstore offers is the Textbook Rental Program, which offers students a great means to save money. Tanaka explains that rental price varies between 40-60% off of the new or used book retail price. Students can either rent books via the bookstore website and have the items shipped directly to them or walk-in and rent textbooks from the bookstore. Either way, students can return rented books directly to the bookstore but will not receive any cash back for rented books.
UH Hilo student, Kara Nelson, is an English and communications double major and as a senior is experienced in buying textbooks. Nelson does her research every semester and ffebruary 4inds the best deals possible for all of her required textbooks. Nelson has found that buying books through Amazon usually always gives her what she determines to be worth her money; she receives new or high quality used books and always ends up saving money. One tip that she has for students purchasing textbooks online is to pay for expedited shipping if you do not have four to six weeks to wait for the book. Nelson claims that paying for the textbooks with expedited shipping usually still comes out being cheaper than buying the same book in most other places. Another tip is to have a back-up plan just in case the purchase falls through from third-party sellers for example sellers can sell items via Amazon but are not affiliated directly with the company. If the Bookstore does not purchase her books, back at the end of each semester, she will either keep the books or take them to Hilo Bay Books located by Poke To Your Taste on Leilani street, and receives store credit. This semester she made purchases through the Bookstore, Amazon and Amazon third-party sellers for a total of $206.92 and found that she saved about $100. In previous semester Nelson has also borrowed books from friends and has let friends borrow books from her.
Similar to Nelson, Derek Hand, a UH Hilo astrophysics student, buys all of his books from Amazon. Hand explains that he has Amazon Prime this is an Amazon membership program that provides free shipping on most items to help with shipping costs. He says he tries to order his books at least three weeks before the start of every semester. to ensure timely arrival. Textbooks via Amazon for Hand range from about $80-200 and he buys both new and used books. At the end of the semester if Hand feels he will not need the textbooks as reference for future classes he sometimes sells his books to the bookstore to save shipping costs, but sometimes Amazon is the perfect spot to reach others who need specialized textbooks that are required for Hand’s major.
Administrative justice student Fenny Seklii luckily only need two required books for her four classes this semester. One book totaled $171.05 and her other book was a PDF format and the cost was split among three friends and each person received a copy for a total of only $15. Communication senior Alana Tavares purchased and rented her textbooks from the bookstore. She spent a total of $219.30 for five books and rented three books for $167.24. At the end of the semester she says that she will sell her purchased textbooks back to the bookstore for cash. Tavares explains in an interview that it is her first time renting from the bookstore but wanted to give the program a try in order to save money because, “not everyone qualifies for financial aid.”
Keʻale Thornton, a student at Haw CC, feels that textbooks at the UH Hilo Bookstore cost too much. For his final semester he has decided to opt out of buying the required book for his course and will be using the textbook that his professor has on hold at the Moʻokini Library.
Cindy Mohandie is the head of the Library Course Reserves Program at Moʻokini. Some instructors give textbooks, music CD’s and outside readings to the library for students to borrow. Based on what professors prefer, students can use the reserved items for two to four hours in the library. One, two or seven days periods where students can take the items home is another possibility. Any UH Hilo or Hawaii Community College student can use the items. Mohandie advises students to encourage their instructors to put items, such as textbooks, on reserve especially if more than one person will be using the Reserves Program.
The UH Hilo Bookstore is a great option for students and has an abundance of resources, not only for textbooks but a plethora of other items as well. Buying online can save you more money but should be a knowledgeable and informed choice made with proper planning.


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