Water Street Books goes online

Thanks to Water Street Books’ online textbook ordering system, students have an alternative to the long lines of the seasonal textbook rush.

The textbook ordering system on Water Street Books’ website (www.waterstreet.bkstr.com) allows students to reserve or order their textbooks online. The website asks the buyer to choose from a list of departments and course numbers, and generates the list of required books at both new and used prices. Then, the store either sets aside the textbooks or delivers them to the student’s mailbox in Baxter Hall.

The Follett Higher Education Group, the company that owns and operates Water Street Books, set up the website last September. The electronic textbook ordering system first went online last spring, and approximately 100 students used the new service to reserve their textbooks. This fall the number of users dropped to around 50 students. According to Water Street Books, most of the textbook reservations came from upperclass students.

Well-known websites such as amazon.com, varsitybooks.com and ecampus.com compete with Water Street Books in the online market. But the lure of off campus e-commerce is not as enticing as it initially appears.

“I did a price comparison and I was surprised to find that my genetics textbook cost one and a half times more on another site than it did at the bookstore,” Grace Rubenstein’01 said.

Overall, the electronic textbook ordering system offers added convenience to the purchasing of textbooks. “Students who get onto the web site can get an early pick of the books without physically having to come into the store and negotiate the aisles,” Mark Ouillette, Manager of Water Street Books, said.

The book lists posted on the online website also allow students to scout out possible classes. “When I first knew my courses, I enjoyed looking at what I’d be reading,” Kristin Wilmer ’03 said.

However, students are not satisfied with all aspects of the program. Letting bookstore employees pick the used books takes some of the control away from students.

Many students like to ensure that they are getting the best quality used books themselves. “I like to pick out my own used textbooks to see how much writing and highlighting are in them,” Brian McDonnell ’01 said.

But the experience of reserving textbooks online has, for the most part, been a less stressful option than braving the hordes of the textbook rush.

“It was almost like I snapped my fingers and then, when I went down to the bookstore the next day, [the books] were all stacked up waiting for me,” Joseph Lott ’03 said. “It was like they were my servants.”