At the beginning of every semester, each AU student is faced with the same difficult question: to be a Textbook Butler user or to not be a Textbook Butler user?
Introduced to AU in 2012, Textbook Butler is a convenient resource for students that automatically purchases or rents students’ textbooks on a semester-by-semester basis. The cost of this service is then added to students’ accounts. However, students often question whether this program is truly cost-efficient.
According to Dustin Martin, manager of the AU Bookstore, Textbook Butler has a number of benefits for students.
“It is a service designed to help streamline the beginning of the semester,” he explained. “Instead of waiting in line for an hour, or clicking around online and hoping their shipments come in on time, we pull and package all of their textbooks according to the preference they choose––new, used, rental––and deliver them to their campus residence or hold them in the store for pickup if they are living off campus.”
According to Martin, Textbook Butler’s system is even aware of when students drop or add classes.
“While adding classes, we will automatically be notified and order your new material,” he said. “If you drop a class, just return the book to the campus Bookstore and we will credit your student account.”
Martin explained that Textbook Butler stays up-to-date on the cost of textbooks to ensure a fair price for college students.
“Textbook Butler’s system goes out every day and finds what the market price is of each title,” Martin said. “We then set our prices to be within that market. We find ourselves very competitive in the market and many times beating prices of online markets.”
Martin noted that students are not forced to use this service offered through the Campus Bookstore.
“Students have seven days after the start of classes to determine if they want to keep the textbooks or if they would like to return them to the campus store, “he said. “Or, once students have enrolled in classes, they may choose to opt out of the free service.”
Junior marketing major Olivia Winslow is one student who chooses to opt out of Textbook Butler.
“I do not use Textbook Butler, because I have been able to find some textbooks at a cheaper cost by shopping around,” she said. “Saving money is important to me as a college student.”
While Textbook Butler may be a good fit for some students, Winslow believes that it is not the best option for everyone.
“Textbook Butler is an amazing option for people who do not have the time to shop around, or if they need rare textbooks,” Winslow explained. “But Textbook Butler can be more expensive, and I’ve heard about students who have experienced problems with lost books.”
Madison Burton, a junior public relations and Christian ministries major, has experienced the frustration of lost books first-hand.
“I have used Textbook Butler in the past, so I tried to use it again this year,” Burton explained. “I went into the bookstore on the first day of classes because I wanted to pick up my books, but they only gave me one of the textbooks I needed for the semester.”
Burton said that she first thought this was a mistake, and she tried to collect the rest of her textbooks.
“I asked where the rest of my textbooks were, and the bookstore said that they were still being processed,” she said. “They couldn’t give me an answer as to when my textbooks would get here or if they would get here at all.”
Burton decided to cancel all of her purchases through Textbook Butler and go through a secondary source instead.
“Since they messed up my order, I was in a position where I was forced to not use Textbook Butler,” she said. “But by ordering online from other sources, I knew when the textbooks were going to be here and that I could rely on their arrival. It was also a lot cheaper to go that route.”
According to Burton, the difference in price between Textbook Butler and other resources was substantial.
“By ordering all of my books myself, I was able to find each textbook at a much cheaper price,” she said. “The amount that Textbook Butler was charging me for just one of my textbooks was equal to the amount that I paid for all of my textbooks through other sources.”
Burton believes that part of the problem with Textbook Butler is due to the fact that many students do not know anything about the service.
“I would like to see some kind of introductory, ‘here’s how you use our service’ email from Textbook Butler,” she said. “It would be nice to have some resource that helps students understand it, because no one really ever discusses it with you.”
According to Burton, improving communication to students would be a step in a right direction.
“There’s a lot of miscommunication and lack of communication,” she said. “Students don’t know how to communicate that they need textbooks or didn’t receive the right textbooks, and that needs to be fixed.”
Despite Burton’s experience with Textbook Butler, she explained that it may be the best option for some students, particularly incoming freshmen.
“With Textbook Butler, convenience is number one, especially for freshmen and new students coming to AU,” she said. “It’s really nice to come in on the first day of classes and have your books in your room waiting for you, even if it is more expensive to go with that option.”