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Local Booksellers Offer Alternatives To the Coop for Textbook Purchases

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

Every term, students empty their wallets to purchase textbooks. A single textbook can cost up to $90, and even though students have little choice over which books they have to buy, they can make an educated decision about where to buy them.

Most MIT students buy their books from the Coop in Kendall Square, but the Alpha Phi Omega book exchange, MIT Press, Quantum Books, and Text Express provide inexpensive alternatives, although they often have less exhaustive inventories.

Coop offers thorough inventory

The Coop at Kendall Square offers a broad selection of textbooks.

Through last Friday, the Coop had 1,400 titles for 550 courses, said Coop General Manager Allan Powell. The number usually increases after Registration Day.

Stock is based on requests from professors, Powell said. Professors tell the Coop which books are required and which are recommended, he said.

Prices are decided based on a markup structure, Powell said. "We get a 20 percent discount from publishers."

The prices for textbooks are then increased by some percentage like other products in the store, Powell said.

Powell would not say what the markup percentage is. However, last year, Powell said it was a 25 percent increase over the original cost.

As an example, the book for Physics I (8.01), University Physics Volume 1, ninth edition by Hugh D. Young, sells for $58.

The required text for Principles of Microeconomics (14.01), Microeconomics, by Earl L. Grinols PhD '77, is listed at $80.50.

The Coop also sells some used books. We have been trying "to get as many used books as we possibly can," Powell said. Used books are cheaper for everyone involved, he said.

Having an ample supply of used books really "depends on how early we get information from professors," Powell said. Under the new management of Barnes & Noble Bookstores, the Coop may have better access to used books, he said.

The book for Organic Chemistry I (5.12), Organic Chemistry, by Professor of Chemistry Daniel S. Kemp and Frank Vellaccio, is selling for $65.50 as a used book, down from $87 as a new book.

Two years ago, the Coop offered a 10 percent rebate on textbooks. A rebate is unlikely this year, but the transition to Barnes & Nobles management "allows hope for a rebate" next year, Powell said.

APO exchange offers low prices

The APO service fraternity will hold its annual used book exchange on the fourth floor of the Student Center in room 407 during the first week of classes, said APOPresident Emily G. Wallis '97. The book exchange will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The book exchange has been run by APO for at least 30 years, Wallis said.

Students who wish to sell their books set the prices themselves, said APO member Ari J. Wilkenfeld G. Students can also specify a lower price for the last day of the exchange.

People can bring their books to APO's office in room 415 in the Student Center starting now and during the exchange itself, he said.

The exchange carries a wide variety of books from textbooks to science fiction novels, Wilkenfeld said. The MIT Science Fiction Society usually sends a big shipment to APO.

Unlike previous years, APO will be taking about a five percent cut of sales, Wallis said. The Registrar's Office previously paid APO to man tables on Registration Day, but this year, computerized registration eliminated the arrangement. The exchange had been completely free for only about the last five years, Wallis said.

The exchange is expected to do about $1,200 of business, Wilkenfeld said.

Books that do not get sold can be picked up by the seller, he said. Leftover books are usually donated to charity.

MIT Press offers special discounts

MIT Press, located opposite the Coop, offers mainly books published by MIT Press, said John P. Jenkins, an MIT Press bookseller.

The textbooks MITPress offers are mostly for economics or computer science courses or by MITfaculty.

Books published by MITPress are tax-free and coupons for a 20 percent discount are available in the MITdirectory.

The required text for Computation Structures (6.004), Computation Structure, by Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Stephen A. Ward '66 and Robert H. Halstead Jr. '75, sells for $70 at MITPress, compared to $72.50 at the Coop.

Introduction to Algorithms, by Thomas H. Cormen PhD '86, and EECS Professors Charles E. Leiserson and Ronald L. Rivest, is the required text for Introduction to Algorithms (6.046) and sells for $60 compared to $69.50 at the Coop.

Quantum Books sells CS books

Quantum Books in Kendall Square has a selection of computer operations and programming books

The text for Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving (1.00), C++ Primer, second edition by Stanley B. Lippman, sells for $39.75 at Quantum Books, compared to $41.50 at the Coop.

Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Patrick H. Winston '65 offers his textbook, Artificial Intelligence, exclusively through Quantum Books. The book sells for $58.25.

Text Express uses call-in service

Text Express has been selling books for two years.

Text Express has no store; to order, students must call Text Express at 859-7170. However, attempts to contact the company resulted only in a voice mail message saying that all representatives were busy.

Last year, a student could place an order, and a Text Express van would drop off the books the next day either at a dormitory or a designated stop on campus.

Text Express offered books for 50 to 60 courses, and most books were between 9 and 15 percent lower than The Coop's prices, said Chris Long, the founder of Text Express, in an interview last year.

For example, the book for Chemical Engineering Thermo-dynamics (10.213), Introduction to Chemical Engineering Thermo-dynamics, fourth edition by Joseph M. Smith, was offered at $73 last year, compared to last year's price of $85 at the Coop.