Unice Kim went to the University Co-op for the first time Wednesday to perform a price comparison of a textbook she had recently bought on Amazon.
The advertising graduate student said she mainly buys textbooks online because they are cheaper than at the bookstore, which is the only establishment that offers new and used books for every UT course.
Students are turning to alternative options for purchasing textbooks because of high costs. Businesses have been popping up to cater to student demand for cheaper options.
In February, Congress proposed legislation to limit the price of textbooks throughout the nation. The proposed bill has provisions to make textbooks more affordable, such as requiring that textbook prices be available to students before the semester begins and requiring publishers to make unbundled and less expensive versions available.
The difference between the price of a new textbook at the Co-op and the same book sold online or at another bookstore can be up to $100.
A used biology book sold at Beat the Bookstore in Dobie Mall, which carries a limited selection of used UT textbooks, costs $35. The same book at the Co-op sells for $113.
One online book rental company, Chegg, claims to save students 60 to 80 percent on all textbooks.
Instead of having students buy textbooks, the Web site rents books to students a semester at a time.
Although online book providers boast great savings, using online services like Chegg may not be in the students' best interests, said Beat the Bookstore owner Ken Jones.
Jones said the key to keeping textbooks affordable is buying only needed textbooks while avoiding supplementary materials. Students also need to pay attention to the net price of the textbooks or how much a student pays for a book after having purchased and returned it.
Jones said the availability and price of textbooks at his store depends on how many students sell back their textbooks.
"There's a shortage of used books," Jones said. "It's caused by students. Students don't sell their books back."