Online shopping trumps bookstores

Going to the bookstore with a list from this semester is a thing of the past as more and more students turn to a different option; the internet.

Google the ISBN number, enter in the title and ta-da-results. For the student who doesn’t want to compare the same textbook through seven different websites, open under seven different tabs, there comes comparison shopping.

Students may be familiar with comparison websites like Amazon, Travigo and Kayak. Compare hotels, apparel, vacation opportunities and now, textbooks.

One such comparison website is SlugBooks.

“Basically what SlugBooks does is make it very easy for students to buy their textbooks from various websites all on one page,” said David Miller, CEO and founder of SlugBooks.

Miller started the website after the textbook co-op he worked at in college went out of business. The co-op lost customers to online services. Losing his job convinced Miller to start something new.

The site launched in 2008 and reached  2500 visitors in its first semester. In 2013, having become tremendously more popular, SlugBooks reached over one million visitors.

“We don’t touch the transaction at all,” Miller said. “Chegg and Textbooks.com are our business partners. We are literally sending students to them.”

The comparison market makes it easier for students to get the deal that appeals most to them and find out their options.

“It’s a pretty easy service to sell,” Miller said. “We’re able to provide a practical option for students. The value is pretty complete.”

SlugBooks is located in Palo Alto, California but reaches students all over the country, by catering to their individual needs­including the needs of Boise State students.

One of those students is Madison Miranda, a sophomore special education major.

“As a freshman I ordered some of my books through Chegg, I did Amazon and other things like that. This past year I got all of them through the bookstore, except my math book because it was cheaper online,” Miranda said.

Miranda, who used to work at the bookstore, has seen a transition from buying to ordering online, especially renting

“I know a lot of people rent,” she said. “And it seems like they get their money’s worth.”

When it comes to comparison websites Miranda sees the usefulness but worries about the future of campus bookstores

“It would be useful in some cases,” Miranda said. “But the book store wouldn’t exist without us buying stuff from it.”

The Boise State Bookstore came to that realization as well, after noticing the effect the internet was having on physical sales it introduced its own comparison shopping online.

“We put that in place primarily to help us to do two things,” said Greg Kannenberg, textbook manager at the Boise State bookstore. “One to help us be more competitive, so when I see some of those online prices if it’s workable I certainly try to match that. But also just be able to have the students see what’s available out there and get the books to fit their financial pocketbooks.”

The bookstore offers books for sale and for rent and Kannenberg has definitely seen the transition to renting, both online through the Bookstore and through other websites.

The goal of both SlugBooks and Bookstore is to make getting textbooks easier for students while not damaging their pocketbooks.

“To provide the best prices and the best offerings of material,” Kannenberg said. “That is our goal.”

About the author  ⁄ Eryn Shay Johnson

Eryn Shay Johnson

Eryn Shay Johnson currently studies communication at Boise State University (BSU), she has been a higher education student since 2011, but is new to the Treasure Valley. Since moving to Boise, Johnson has jumped into her schooling with both feet, as a media emphasis student she has helped produce articles for the Idaho Press Tribune. Previously, Johnson worked as a special sections intern for the Post Register of Idaho Falls where she previously worked as a news intern. The Post Register helped publish many of Johnson’s works including her article “Good for the Soul: Group uses laughter as path to better health” which was picked up by the Associated Press in July 2011. Johnson has also served as an intern for the Times-News of Twin Falls. She now contributes stories to The Arbiter. As a student at BSU, Johnson aspires to graduate in Spring 2015. Following graduation she plans to continue her writing for news outlets, planning to grow all the while. Her dream is to write professionally for a major city newspaper, ultimately she wants to write a Pulitzer Prize winning piece. Johnson was a member of the Associate Students of the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) and served as both Advertising Senator and Off Campus Relations Senator. She graduated from CSI May 2013 with her Associate Degree in Communication Studies. She is a native of Idaho Falls and comes from a small family, her only sibling is her twin brother Damon who serves the United States Air Force.