Textbook prices can vary widely

by Stacey Mleczko
Features Editor

They permit continuous learning, allow students to miss class occasionally and prepare them for exams and the professional world. They are an everlasting resource, provide access to knowledge and are excellent references, often from experts.

Students complain each semester about the wad of cash they spend on college textbooks. But they do not think twice about blowing off the class they just paid six times the amount of the book for.

The University of La Verne Bookstore is a division of Follett, the largest textbook corporation in the world. This affiliation controls the prices of books that flow in and out of the bookstore.

Randi Stevens, textbook coordinator for the ULV bookstore, said the store does not make money on its textbook sales. “Follett sets its price markups 50 cents above list price. The bookstore really only makes money on the clothing, that is where the markup takes place.”

Nick Karvia, textbook manager for the University Bookstore, said the store has little control over the prices of textbooks.

Students are usually quick to sell back their textbook and for good reason. If a professor adopts the text, the student will be paid 50 percent of its original price.

“[The percentage students get for books] is based on need. The key is in the need for instructors actually turning in their adoptions on time, which only 40 percent of the instructors on this campus do,” he said.

Karvia encouraged book returns and said that the bookstore buys books back at all times of the year but the best times to get the most money is during finals week and the end of a semester or at the beginning of a new semester.

Karvia said, “The bookstore actually does best on used books. I prefer to get as many used books in as I possibly can. It’s much better for the store.”

He said that most professors do not seem to think it is important to turn their adoptions in on time and that is very unfortunate for students. Unadopted books may only be bought back for zero to 30 percent of their original prices.

Online book merchants are alternative textbook resources. There are sites students can purchase books on and sites students can use to locate used texts or help sell your used texts to other students.

Amazon.com, in most cases, sells textbooks for less than the ULV bookstore but attaches a shipping and handling charge per item, per shipment and more depending on what type of shipping customers request (3 to 7 business days to UPS Next Day Air). It often adds up to more than bookstore prices.

Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com) is the second largest textbook carrier and it makes for good competition for Follett. Texts are generally cheaper at this merchandiser but only by a matter of cents.

Publishers of the textbooks sell the books in bulk to universities and other merchants at a net price. Kristi Gordon, a representative from McGraw Hill Publishers, said the net price is usually quite a bit lower than list price. She said that all publishers set a suggested retail price. “‘Concepts in Biology’ is sold to the University Bookstore for $47.75, we recommend that the bookstore sell the book to students for $59.69,” said Gordon.

The bookstore sells “Concepts in Biology” to students for $64.25.

The telephone operator at Houghton Mifflin refused to release the net price of Houghton Mifflin texts. She said, “We are not authorized to reveal that information.”

Karvia said everyone has access to pricing information. “Anyone can look up competitor prices at the National Association of College Stores (NACS) web site. The web site shows nationwide statistics for pricing with margins ranging from 20 – 30 percent.”

The web address for NACS is www.nacs.com.

Lori Armenta, a junior business administration major, said she spends approximately $300 a semester on textbooks. “I try to sell my books to students who are in the class the next semester. I’ll sell it for half of what I bought it for and we both get a good deal.”

Students may find that buying and selling their texts directly to and from one another is the best bargain yet. But Armenta admits, “Sometimes it’s hard to find students who need them and it takes a lot of effort.”

Karvia invites students to the bookstore but he said he would not hold their hands. “You’re free to come in, walk over to the shelf and write down the ISBN number from the back of the book but I am not going to do it for you. That would be like me or any other retailer shooting himself in the foot, telling you how to get their product somewhere else.”

Students can check it out for themselves. The ISBN number on the back of the textbook will identify the needed book on any site immediately. If students can find an online retailer with free shipping, it may pay off to order online.

Sites like the University Book Exchange, www.UBEinc.com or www.stubex.com can assist students in selling books even if it is an old edition.




Barnes & Noble


College Algebra: Concepts and Models

ISBN# 0395976219

$83.00 new


$62.25 used

$76.75 new



$82.75 new


$62.07 used

$82.36 new

N/A used

N/A net

Concepts in Biology

ISBN# 007233827X

$64.25 new


$48.25 used

$65.00 new



$63.75 new


$47.85 used

$59.69 new

N/A used

$47.75 net

World Civilization

ISBN# 0393968820

$59.25 new


$44.00 used

$25.60 new



$23.75 new



N/A new

N/A used

N/A net

Multitude: Crosscultural Readings for Writers

ISBN# 007017086X

$39.00 new


$29.25 used

$38.43 new



$38.75 new


$29.07 used

$36.00 new

N/A used

$28.80 net

Writer’s Reference

ISBN# 0312247540

$34.00 new


$25.50 used

$33.29 new



$33.75 new


$25.32 used

N/A new

N/A used

N/A net

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