When student and veteran Aaron Myracle noticed the Pierce College Puyallup bookstore was selling the Nook, he saw the potential to exchange 20 pounds of textbooks for a 3-ounce e-reader. An e-reader could hold all his textbooks but in digital form.
Myracle was interested in buying the Nook because lugging around bulky textbooks aggravates his back injury. After researching the features of the e-reader, Myracle discovered the Nook is not capable of downloading digital textbooks.
In the campus bookstore, owned and operated by Barnes & Noble since September, the Nook is featured prominently near the front door. Students may be led to believe that because the bookstore sells the Nook, downloading e-textbooks would be a possibility, especially since the bookstore also sells digital editions of textbooks.
“It’s unethical for the campus bookstore to be benefiting from the connection students will make; they are marketing under false pretenses to a captive audience,” Myracle said. “It seems like since community colleges are non-profits funded by the state, that students might assume that the on-campus bookstore would be looking out for their interests, but instead it’s operating for profit.”
Bookstore employee Crystal Mayzlic said she hasn’t had problems with students misunderstanding the Nook’s uses.
The college bookstore’s website does note the Nook is not capable of downloading textbooks in its FAQ section, but some students say the information is not immediately apparent on the display case.
Posters with information on the Nook’s incompatibility with downloading e-textbooks are displayed in the store, according to Puyallup campus bookstore assistant manager Midoli Cram. The posters also describe what formats students can use to download Nook Study, a free application to read e-books bought from Barnes & Noble.
“I don’t have a problem with them selling the e-readers; however, there should be a clear distinction made to warn potential purchasers they don’t display textbooks; their decision to not make clear this fact is, in my opinion, cowardly and underhanded as they seem to rely on misinformation to sell their product,” Running Start student Hunter Evans said.
Despite the posters in the campus bookstore describing the limited capabilities of the Nook, students could overlook that information. Some students say the Nooks are sold at the same store that primarily sells textbooks, making it understandable that students would be mislead.
“The proprietary nature of the product may give the impression of deception and ulterior motive to push a product, which can be frustrating to the students as in the case of the veteran,” said Bhagirath Bhatt, vice president for government concerns at Pierce College Puyallup Office of Student Life.
Bhatt believes the Nook could be helpful for students, but the bookstore should disclose the limitations of the e-reader.
“I also believe with the textbook prices being high it would be beneficial to the students to have access to something like the Nook; it would be affordable, convenient and less cumbersome,” Bhatt explained. “However, it has to be something that helps the student and an item that doesn’t meet a student’s needs should not be marketed without full disclosure of its capabilities and limitations.”
For Myracle, he doesn’t have the option of buying e-textbooks somewhere else. He needs to buy his textbooks at the campus bookstore because the Veterans Administration through financial aid will pay for his textbooks, but only if they are purchased from the bookstore.
“I am basically a captive audience member of the options they provide for textbooks,” he said. “The VA needs a system for dispersing funds on a wide scale; they assume that on-campus bookstores will be the most cost-effective option because they are there to serve the best interests of students.”
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