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Coop Alternatives Offer Textbooks at Low Prices

By Karen E. Robinson
Staff Reporter

In the rush to secure books for spring classes, students are finding several different sources which sell required course books. Quantum Books, Beantown Books, and the Alpha Phi Omega Book Exchange all offer some of the same texts as the MIT Coop, often at lower prices.

Quantum a source for 6, 8 , 18

Quantum Books, located near Legal Seafood, around the block from the Coop, sells many computer Science, math, and physics texts at prices significantly lower than those at the Coop. For example, the text for Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (6.001), is $80 at the Coop ($60 used), compared to $50 new from Quantum Books.

They have a clear list of books on their webpage (<\www.quantumbooks.com>; click on "MIT Students"), so students can easily see what is available.

Alum operation offers alternative

Beantown Books is a new online operation started by three MIT alumni. Chris Yang '96, Grace Kim '97, and Jimmy K. Lee '98 found the Coop to be "rather expensive" and thought they could provide a good alternative. Yang said that they had been "throwing around the idea" since September 1998, though this is the first semester that they have sold books.

Beantown is hoping to eventually add a community site, to serve students from other schools as well, and inform students of college activity.

Their webpage is <\http://www.beantownbooks.com>

APO brings together buyer, seller

Alpha Phi Omega, a national coed service fraternity, offers an alternate way to buy and sell used books. From Feb. 25, APO is holding its annual used book exchange in the Mezzanine Lounge on the third floor of the Student Center.

Students who want to sell used books set the prices themselves. They can also set a lower price for the last day of the exchange. If a book is not sold, it can either be returned or donated to charity.

APO does not monitor prices and has no control of what books come in, so book availability and costs vary.

Generally, the book exchange has older versions of textbooks. APO also sells course readers and various paperback books.

Other alternatives available

Another important source for textbooks is MIT Press, which publishes several books for MIT courses. There are also larger sources, such as the web-based amazon.com. Amazon offers Introduction to Algorithms for $65, as does MIT Press but this is still $13 more than Quantum Books. Amazon's price for the text for Macroeconomics (14.02), is $77.80, compared to Beantown's price of $69.95. Amazon does prove to be a good place to look for textbooks not offered at other alternate sources, though, as their prices tend to be under the Coop's.

Sites which offer books for many colleges include Varsity Books, <\www.varsitybooks.com> and Follett Corporation, <\www.efollett.com>.

Used books can also be a viable option, especially for General Institute Requirements and other large subjects. The Coop buys used books from students at 50 percent of new price, and charges 75 percent of new price for used books. Obviously, buying used books directly from other students avoids the Coop's taking this hefty margin sale at 62 percent or so of list price provides a better deal for both selling and buying student.

Coop fails to publicize alternatives

This is the first semester that the Coop has not made public the lists of books and courses which require them; students must follow course numbers to books on the shelves. Coop management told The Tech that this is because the information is prone to change, and it is easier to only change shelved books than worry about students finding outdated information. Some speculate, however, that making the information less accessible discourages students from searching for books elsewhere. Coop management denies this claim.