August 25, 2006

Same Textbooks, Very Different Prices

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Siya Huo ’08 claims to swear by the Cornell Store.

“I like new books because I don’t like it when they’re highlighted, and it’s the most convenient,” Huo said.

Huo is not alone. The Cornell Store is known for its swarms of people, long lines and extended hours during orientation week and the beginning of classes.

While such students are generally correct about the convenience, many become caught up in the comfortable closeness of the campus store without checking other good, cheap book stores not too far away.

Kraftees, for example, located in the heart of Collegetown specializes in used books and cheap finds for Cornell students. Hours are longer than the Cornell Store, with special extended hours Monday though Thursday of orientation week of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Our prices are guaranteed to be the same or lower as [those of] the Cornell Store,” said Patrick Kraft, owner of Kraftees.

Kraft said that new books are usually at least 10 percent lower and used books are around 30 percent lower. While Kraft claims that Kraftees carries about 95 percent of the books the Cornell store does, about five of the eight books on a random schedule were currently in stock on Thursday. Major textbooks, however, were found for nearly every course.

“Our goal is 100 percent, but eventuating circumstances prevent it,” said Kraft, referring to professors who submit book lists late or course packets that are only available through the Cornell Store.

When it comes to price, Kraftees beat out the Cornell Store in every way. Book prices were typically reduced from $5 to $10. When buying an assortment of 8 books, as much as $80 can be saved. The wait on line yesterday was about 10 minutes, though Kraft says that lines can get as long as 25 minutes during hectic days. Convenience was also not an issue: the location was only about a two-minute walk away from campus, and all books are gathered for the students at the register by one of the cashiers. Immediately, students are told which books are in stock, which are sold out and which are simply unavailable.

While the Cornell Store is packed with many service workers especially during orientation weeks, students still must search through the aisles themselves.

However, if looking for even cheaper finds, some convenience must be sacrificed. Many students go for off-campus bookstores or websites such as to find even cheaper books.

One off-campus store, Borders, located at the Pyramid mall, is about a 10 minute drive from campus and seems to beat both Kraftees and the Cornell Store in price and hours of operation; however, Borders does not carry many of the required textbooks for Cornell students.

Karly Kidney, a worker at Borders says the store gets a lot of calls during orientation week by students who are looking for textbooks, but Borders doesn’t carry most of them.

“We leave it up to the Cornell Store to order [textbooks].” Prices for books were, on average, however, much cheaper. A $42 Social Cognition book at the Cornell store is available through the Borders website for $35.99 with free shipping and as little as about $15 if students are willing to buy it used. Borders lines, however, were exceedingly short.

“We usually don’t let the lines get past three people long,” said Kidney.
With such reduced costs, it is not a surprise that students are looking for online options rather than jumping straight to the obvious choice: the campus store.

Miranda Struck ’08 said that she buys some books at the Cornell Store while obtaining the more expensive ones via various online websites. Struck claims to have saved about $40 on just one book for a human behavior class by avoiding the campus store.

Ross Anderson ’08 said that he has never once bought a textbook from the Cornell Store. Instead, Anderson uses the website, which searches through several book websites including and directs you to the cheapest find.

“I’d rather sacrifice convenience for cost,” says Anderson.

While the Cornell Store is clearly unavoidable for certain essentials such as course packets unique to only Cornell, it is not the cheapest nor is it necessarily the most convenient. Even those who typically buy books from the campus store, such as Sean Niland ’08, now have some qualms about it.

“It’s not necessarily the waiting on line; it’s the swarms of people,” said Niland.

Others, however, are still die-hard Cornell Store fans like Huo, who said she waited at least forty minutes on Wednesday before classes began. But even Huo will occasionally return a book when finding a cheaper one online.