Online Allure

Can the Coop and Online Booksellers Co-exist in a Crowded Marketplace?

As students turn increasingly towards online book vendors for their textbook needs, the MIT Coop recently announced that it is striking back.

By launching a new program of price matching two weeks ago, the MIT Coop has given students a new incentive to buy their books on campus.

According to Kelli R. Hendricks, a customer service representative at the MIT Coop, there are certain limitations on the procedure. Students must present a printout from an online vendor that includes the identical ISBN number for the book, the price, the availability and a guarantee that it will ship within 48 hours.

The MIT Coop will then sell the book at the reduced price--or even offer a rebate for an already-purchased book.

While the Harvard Coop has no plans to offer a similar program, employees say recent improvements to selling techniques will ensure the store remains competitive.

What's Out There

Some students have uncovered large savings over Coop prices when shopping online. Sites such as Amazon.com, Bigwords.com and VarsityBooks.com offer textbooks at prices that are often lower than those at the Coop.

John C. Heywood '00, for example, saved almost $50 by buying his accounting textbook from Bigwords.com.