Textbook prices on the rise

Tully McKinley

Community college is supposed to be a place with affordable tuition costs for an education similar to that of four-year colleges. The only problem is textbooks cost just as much as at any other college, which can lead to some students paying more for books than they do for classes. This is before they buy the study guides and supplemental materials.

Textbooks have been steadily increasing in price for ages, and when a student has to shell out $138 for a chemistry pay seems a little out of control. Textbook prices keep rising, the buyback prices keep getting lower, and nobody seems to be doing anything to stop it. Top that off with a new edition of the text coming out every six months, and most students find themselves getting a little overwhelmed by all of it.

The Saddleback Bookstore is by far the easiest place to get your books for your current classes, but is it really the best bet? Online sellers like Amazon.com and Half.com can typically sell the same text at a much lower price. But with all of the great online methods, how does the Saddleback bookstore stay open? They just give better incentives than their competitors.

“We accept our online competition,” said Jim Harding, Saddleback bookstore manager. “We try to do things to keep our customers, like if there’s a problem with the text or the student drops the class, it’s a lot easier to deal with us and get a refund than the websites.”

What students do not know about the bookstore is that it isn’t actually the college bookstore. Follett leases the space from Saddleback, and all of the materials and fixtures inside are owned by them.

The store is on a five year lease, and just recently renewed. Harding, who has been the store manager since 1999, has also noticed the upward trend in textbook pricing.

“The worst price jumps I’ve seen are about $4 to $5 increase from year to year,” Harding said. “I really sympathize with the students because I see how hard it is to pay for all of these texts.”

“In the typical case, the store gives 50 percent of the new price of the book on a buyback,” Harding said, “Then we turn around and sell that used text at 75 percent of the new price. The best deal is to buy used, because we still give the 50 percent buyback, so you only pay for 25 percent of the book.”

The bookstore operates off of that 25 percent margin of profit, and uses it to pay the employee salaries and overhead.

The other major concern seems to be with new editions that change nothing more than the author’s note at the start of the text.

“New edition time has gotten pretty bad,” Harding said. “It used to be about a three to four year turnover before a new edition, and now it’s down to about two years, and while some of the new editions are really worthwhile and helpful, others really aren’t.”

While the school bookstore may have done more than $5 million in sales last year with over 25,000 students, that’s only an average of $200 a head.

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