The market for used books is set to expand next semester.
The Yale College Council, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and five other campus organizations are starting a textbook recycling program to benefit New Haven homeless shelters. The textbook exchange, officially known as the YCC-YHHAP Book Exchange, will also sell significantly discounted course packets and trade books.
“I think [the book exchange] is incredibly exciting because the book market is a multimillion-dollar market at Yale this year,” YCC President Jeff Gordon ’12 said. “Even if we put a small dent in that percentage-wise, we’ll be saving students thousands of dollars and giving thousands of dollars to YHHAP.”
Students will be able to purchase a used textbook for 50 percent of its list price at the Yale Bookstore, said Brandon Levin ’13, treasurer of the YCC and chair of the YCC Textbook Committee. Students who donate their old textbooks will be offered an additional 25 percent discount off the list price, he added.
Levin said the YCC will begin collecting course materials next week and will continue in January. Books will be sold from the basement of Bingham Hall, Levin said, and students will be able to check inventory and reserve books using an online system. Levin also added that the YCC is working to ensure students can pay for their books using bursar accounts.
“[The book exchange] will be, unequivocally, the cheapest way to buy textbooks on campus,” he said.
Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said in an e-mail that his office budgets a $3,100 allowance for students to cover personal expenses and books as part of the total cost of a year at Yale College. This allowance changes yearly to reflect inflation, he added.
Despite the growing availability of used textbooks and professors’ increasing use of free, digital course materials, Storlazzi said Student Financial Services has not contemplated lowering the allowance. Still, Storlazzi said SFS hopes to gather information about textbook expenses when it circulates its next questionnaire among the student body.
Though Gordon said the YCC has never attempted to create a textbook exchange in the past, the council collected used course packets last semester to resell this spring. While Gordon said this effort has been unsuccessful, he added that he believes the new textbook exchange will be more popular among students because it also benefits charities. Levin said the book exchange is the only on-campus option for students looking to buy used course packets and books.
Michael Ianuzzi, owner of TYCO Copying and Printing on Elm Street, said that while he does not have any specific statistics, he knows that many professors alter their course packets significantly from semester to semester.
As a result, he said, TYCO has never considered selling used course packets.
“[The YCC book exchange] is business; it’s just more competition,” Ianuzzi said.
Joseph King, general manager of the Yale Bookstore, declined to comment on the book exchange, but said that the Bookstore is “doing everything [it] can to lower prices for students.”
Cliff Simms, owner of Labyrinth Books, did not respond to requests for comment.YHHAP volunteer Charlie Jaeger ’12 said he first got the idea for the book exchange after observing the “huge inefficiencies” in the used textbook market at Yale, adding that during his first two years of college he saw thousands of course materials thrown away by students at the end of the academic year. Jaeger said he and fellow YHHAP volunteer Raymond Xi ’12 decided to approach the YCC for help starting the textbook recycling program, which would send money to shelters — including Life Haven and New Haven Home Recovery.
Levin said that the YCC is currently working to lower textbook-related costs through other initiatives, such as a textbook rental project through the Yale Bookstore and a project to make e-books “more compatible” with Yale College courses.
All three students interviewed said they would participate in the book exchange, adding that the project’s contribution to charity is an incentive to participate.
Peter Lu ’11 said that while he thinks the book exchange is a good idea, textbooks for classes such as “Introduction to Microeconomics,” are often unnecessary, as there is a lot of information available online free of charge.
The Yale Student Environmental Coalition (YSEC), the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership (STEP) and the freshman, sophomore and junior class councils are also working with YCC and YHHAP on the book exchange.
Sam Greenberg and Emily Wanger contributed reporting.