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Buy the book: On the rising cost of textbooks

22 February 2011 2 Comments

Stephanie Bott, assistant textbook manager of the UVU Bookstore

It is a common misconception that college stores make a large profit on textbooks. This is something that we understand better than people think we do. We know the high cost of textbooks is very hard to handle, and we’re looking for any alternative to help keep those costs down.

For new texts, college stores will typically obtain the books directly from the publisher, who sets the price of the book. College stores then will set the retail price with a margin of about 20 to 25 percent (average is about 22.3 percent).

A normal retail store (e.g. a clothing store or an electronics store) can have margins ranging anywhere from 35 to 50 percent. After expenses are paid (rent, utilities, freight, personnel costs, etc.) the bookstore makes about $.04-profit on every dollar. That profit goes back into the institution to help curb other expenses that now don’t have to get taken out of tuition money from students. The publisher makes about 65 percent on a textbook, which goes into their expenses and profit. The author makes about 11 percent on each book sold.

We offer top dollar for our buy-back books, which is 50 percent of the new price, whether it was bought new or used. If one were to look at a book that sells for $100 new, the student should get back $50 for buy-back. If that student bought it used, they would pay $75 and still receive $50 for buyback, making the true cost of the book $25.

There are other factors that may affect the buy-back price, such as whether or not a book was sold with access codes, if the book is loose-leaf, comes with a workbook, or simply was not requested for the next semester. These can bring down the buy-back value. We are also happy to offer cash on the spot. As an alternative in the event a book does not have value to the college store, we have a wholesaler ready to buy books and we can do it in the same transaction. We also have the options of eBooks and rentals in our store for an up-front price reduction.

As for the other book buy-back businesses popping up, we’ve always had the philosophy that competition is good. It’s always good to take a step back and look at your business. Buying used books is a huge risk on our part, but we know it’s the best option for students, and that’s what sells the best in the store so we want to make sure we buy as many as we can. We do have to have the buffer of new books in the store, so, in the event we don’t sell as many as we think we will, we can send those back for a refund.

The instructors or departments select the textbooks for the courses. This is done with careful consideration on their part, finding the best material for the fairest amount of money. Textbook prices do increase rapidly, so if students would like to express their concern to the publishers, it’s not a bad idea.

We hope that the students get the most out of their textbooks. Read them, study them and learn. Students pay for the information in there, so they may as well get the most for their money.

— Stephanie Bott

UVU Bookstore
UVU Bookstore on Twitter

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  • Tom Goelz said:

    Thanks. I didn’t know what kind of markups there were at student book stores

  • Amanda said:

    Interesting post – I had thought the increase in prices had come from the bookstores, not from the publishers. This is why used books (bought through Amazon, etc.) are becoming popular..

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