updated 4/7/2005 2:42:42 AM ET 2005-04-07T06:42:42

University of Nevada at Las Vegas graduate student Lindsay Hendricks treks to the campus bookstore each semester armed with her course list, but if she doesn’t find what she wants, her next stop is the Internet.

With textbook prices rising — more than 60 percent over the past decade, one report found — students are increasingly turning to the Internet to look for deals.

Hendricks, 26, said she found “How to Think Straight About Psychology,” which normally sells for $40, for just $5 on Amazon.com.

“In graduate college we’re all about cheap books,” she said.

'Wave of the future'
According to a 2004 study by the California Student Public Interest Research Group, 14 percent of students bought or sold books online or at a book swap, but 86 percent considered it.

In 2003, a survey by the trade group National Association of College Stores in Oberlin, Ohio, found that about 14 percent of college students buy textbooks online, up from just 6 percent in 1999.

Al Greco, a Fordham University marketing professor who follows trends in the college textbook industry, said Internet textbook sales are growing because students have figured out they can save as much as half the book’s cost that way.

“It’s the wave of the future,” he said.

Traditional booksellers shrug off the competition.

“It’s something we have to deal with because it’s there,” said Frank Condello, marketing director for Nebraska Book Co., which operates 112 college bookstores. “As to whether or not it’s going to drive us out of business, no way.”

Text costs surge
Jennifer Libertowski, spokeswoman for the National Association of College Stores, said the best way for campus bookstores to compete with increasing Internet sales will be to offer a large number of affordable used books.

And no wonder. According to the California Public Interest Research Group, the average student will spend nearly $900 each year on textbooks, with prices increasing at more than four times the rate of inflation.

Wholesale prices charged by textbook publishers have jumped 62 percent since 1994, while the price charged for general books went up just 19 percent, the report found.

Kui Xie, a 28-year-old graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, said he spends between $200 and $300 per semester on books for three courses. He buys about half of his textbooks online in any given semester.

“The main reason is it’s cheaper,” he said. “I’d rather buy books from the bookstore if the prices are close.”

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