Managers take on textbook hassles

Nicole Delisio
(BG News)

Despite the rising cost of textbooks, local bookstore managers say students can save money by knowing where and when to shop.

A study from the California and Oregon Student Public Interest Research Groups and the OSPIRG Foundation found that students spend an average of $898 per year on books, 33 percent more than in 1997.

According to Kent Kokomoor, manager of Bee Gee Bookstore, this increase may prevent students from buying books early.

“Anymore, a lot of students don’t buy their books right off the shoe,” Kokomoor said. “If you’re taking a business class you could have a book that’s $75. I’ve seen a lot of tendency to put off those purchases.”

Waiting to buy books has advantages and disadvantages. Professors may switch the book prior to the semester, causing students an extra trip to the store.

Students who wait, however, may find stores are out of a book when they shop. They may also incur long lines. In this case, Maureen Ireland, assistant director of the University Bookstore, says buying early may be best.

“If you don’t want to stand in line, and the bookstore has a return policy, it wouldn’t hurt to get it early,” Ireland said. “We haven’t noticed much of professors changing books.”

The increase in costs is mostly due to bonus features such as CD-ROMS publishers include in the books.

These bonus features cause publishing companies to make frequent edition changes and used textbooks then become obsolete.

These edition changes occur on average every three years. Although updated information is included, edition changes could dampen a bookstore’s sales.

Steve Donnelly, manager of Student Book Exchange, said he thinks the changes have affected his business.

“They don’t help, but it’s an option the author has,” Donnelly said. “The whole CD gig is an attempt to curtail the used book market. Students don’t use CDs with texts — very rarely.”

Despite any bonus features, students can still lessen their overall spending on these books. Deciding how they will use the books may determine whether they need new or used copies, or overall cheaper copies.

Students should also consider the need for optional books. According to Kokomoor, students may or may not need these books.

“The off-campus stores tend not to push books that are optional,” Kokomoor said. “I’ll tell the student, ‘The study guide’s optional. You may want to go to class first and see if you need it.'”

Another strategy for students is buying books online. Internet sellers may offer a bigger used book selection and students may find good deals on auction sites and marketplaces.

Amazon.com offers free supersaver shipping on orders over $25. Barnes and Noble offers free standard shipping on orders over $25, and five percent off with a Student Advantage Card.

Buying online might carry disadvantages, however. Online return policies may vary, and students will likely be unable to return books to individual sellers. Students must also factor in any shipping and handling.

“There are some titles you can get cheaper, however you always have to factor in shipping,” Kokomoor said. “There’s been instances when you buy online, the title is still the same and the author is the same, then there’s some books marked international editions. That’s not the book I’ve got reported from the department, so you buy the book but then you can’t return it to any of the other bookstores at the end of the semester.”

Students not buying from a bookstore or online also have the option to purchase from friends.

Increasing prices have caused students to buy from friends for many years. This can save students from paying higher prices, however, Donnelly says it has not hurt his business.

“It hasn’t changed since 1958,” Donnelly said. “They do the same thing they did then. There’s nothing new other than the Net.”

No matter what strategies students use to buy books, there may be a sticker shock upon receiving a several-hundred-dollar textbook bill.

Textbooks are free for most students before reaching college, and buying a few $40 or $50 books may be a shock compared to paying $9.95 for a paperback.

If students parents buy their books, they may be unprepared for the textbook expense each term after paying tuition.

According to Ireland, this shock may be lessened if students know ahead of time how much textbooks cost. The University Bookstore’s web site offers information on where each textbook dollar goes, including author income and freight expenses.

“I would hope that if they have already researched their college, they would kind of know,” Ireland said. “The average on this campus is $300-$400 per semester.”

Although students may find cheaper prices online or through friends, Bowling Green bookstores offer students many advantages.

The University Bookstore has a massive buyback at the end of every semester. When a professor reuses a book, the store tries to buy back every copy it will need for the next semester.

Another advantage at the University Bookstore is the availability of the Big Charge.

“We have the Big Charge here, which is only used in our bookstore and through dining services,” Ireland said. “It is our commitment to carry everything the professor or instructor asks us to carry.”

A receipt and identification are required for returns at the University Bookstore. New textbooks must not be marked in or damaged to get a full refund. Pre-packaged items must remain unopened. Full refunds are given on used and unmarked new textbooks within three weeks of the start of fall classes.

Off-campus bookstores have fought for many years to bring the Big Charge off-campus. For Kokomoor, this option might bring more business to the off-campus stores.

“I’ve had numerous students come in and say, ‘Oh gosh, I could’ve saved if I bought this off- campus.’ But their parents wanted to put it on the Big Charge,” Kokomoor said.

Bee Gee Bookstore tries to keep used book prices down and not fix their prices to reflect new publisher prices.

Kokomoor says he believes off-campus stores try to get more used copies, and allow students to save at least 25 percent off a new book.

“I think you’re going to save more on used textbooks,” Kokomoor said. “I know you’ve got to go across the street, but go across the street and save $80 or $90.”

A receipt is required for all returns at Bee Gee Bookstore, and pre-packaged items must be unopened as well.

Donnelly does not raise prices on any books at Student Book Exchange either.

He reiterated Kokomoor’s statement about saving money with used textbooks.

“You save 25 percent if you buy used,” Donnelly said. “I don’t raise prices. I always stay with the original price.”

Donnelly said he believes quick lines, a good return policy and a friendly staff as other advantages for students at his store.

Student Book Exchange has a two-week return policy on textbooks, starting the day fall classes begin. A receipt is required, and there must be no marking in new books.

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