1. I hear students indicating they receive little money for their used books at buyback. How does the store determine what they pay?

The value of a book depends significantly on whether or not the book will be used the following term. We can pay more for books that will stay on campus, possibly as much as half of the retail price of a NEW book. We have a wholesale buyer who runs our buyback. When the Campus Store isn't buying the book, the wholesaler can then often offer to buy the book from the student at a lower price.

We do not buy books on speculation so it is very important to have adoptions in on time from faculty. We can't give money to the students unless if we know you will be using the book again. We also try to keep in mind that paying more at buyback ultimately means the store would have to charge students more the next semester.

2. Do you order enough books for everyone in the class?

Typically we do not. There are a lot of factors that go into determining how many textbooks we order for a class. We look at enrollment, sales history, the online market, old/new edition, print on demand, etc. If it is a bundle or a custom edition, we will then try to order enough for everyone in the class as the printing process takes several weeks. Every book we have on our shelves at the end of the semester either has to be stored or shipped back to the vendor, so we try to be conservative with our ordering decisions. If we run out of books for your class, please encourage your students to talk to us as we will reorder on a need by need basis.

We also want to encourage you to tell us what book will be used in the first week of class. We will order a higher number of that book so we can try to avoid any first week shortages.

3. Why do you price your books so high?

This is surprisingly a misconception. Most textbooks are sold to the campus store at a "net" price. In other words, we are billed for how much the book costs us, but there is no selling price listed. The store sets the selling price. Also with most textbooks purchased at net price, the quantity ordered doesn't affect the cost. One copy will cost the store $50. If we order 300 copies the text will still cost the store $50 each. With our present markup on net pricing, a $50 text would sell for $66.50. That profit margin must also help to cover labor costs and shipping costs, not only for the inbound texts, but also the costs of returning any leftover copies. In comparison, the new John Grisham novel sells for $29 retail, but the major retailers probably get a 50-60% discount on the large quantities they purchase, and maybe negotiated for free shipping on at least their initial shipment.  If a text does have a pre-existing retail price the store will sell it at that price, but not higher.

So how does Amazon or Barnes & Noble sell the same textbook cheaper?

Publishers tell us that they do not sell the books for less to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, which means that online retailers actually lose money on textbooks. They can cut their losses by limiting the number that they sell at discounts, but they also use lower textbook sale prices as a way of capturing e-mail addresses so that they can continually deluge you with ads. Now they have your e-mail address and a way of contacting you as long as you own that e-mail. They'll be nice about it, but they've got you right where they want you.

4. Why do you return the books before the semester is over?

When we buy from different textbook venders, they have varying return policies. Many of them only give us 90 days to return the books for a full refund or with a 20% restocking fee. If we try to send them back late, they will send them right back to us and we will be out the shipping costs. In order for us not to end up with books that will never be used again, we sometimes have to return books in the middle of the semester. Unfortunately, this requires your students to plan ahead and buy the books they need while they are available. You can help by encouraging your students to purchase all their books before October.

5. Who profits from textbook sales?

For us, there are many costs that go into supplying textbooks for students. Shipping costs, labor, and the expense of the books all are paid first from textbook sales. After that, any profit that we make goes directly back to Calvin College since we are, and always will be, a nonprofit store.

6. What are you doing to help keep the cost of textbooks down? We are continuously working to keep the cost of textbooks down for our students. One of the best ways we can do that is by offering a wide array of textbook options. We offer used, rental, digital, and host a student to student sale, a program where students sell directly to other students on our shelves. We have actually increased our non-new books this past semester by 3% that translates into significant savings for our students.

We are also keeping a close eye on the e-Reader market. While the technology isn't quite there yet for ebooks to be anything more than just a PDF, we believe that this is the direction in which we are heading. Current ebooks tend to be the same price if not more than a typical used book, and many of these same ebooks then expire after a set amount of time. Because of this, most students are still opting for the traditional textbook. We are happy to have any conversations with interested faculty so we can have Calvin College ready when the technology is available.





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