Attention all business and science majors – here is your first lesson: books aren’t cheap.
“It seems that the business, science and mathematics are all the most expensive,” said Darcy Finical, store manager of Textbook Corner. “The prices are set by the publishers, so I think that those are the ones that they’ve targeted… Across the board, you see that those are the most expensive ones.”
Books paired with software are especially prone to higher prices.
“We had a book that was packaged with software this summer for accounting that was $240,” said Mike McRell, manager of the Memorial Union bookstore. “That was the most expensive book I’ve ever seen.”
According to the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008, publishers must tell teachers about the copyrights of previous editions within 10 years, the prices the publisher would charge at the bookstore and any major revisions that the textbooks have undergone. The act also requires publishers to sell bundled items separately as well as bundled.
Finical believes that the bundles allow students to buy the material more cheaply than if the materials were only sold as separate items.
“The chemistry package and a math bundle that people going into elementary education use are both almost $200,” Finical said. “That is cheaper than it was when the components were split apart. The publisher reps worked with the professors to bundle everything together to give it a lower price.”
There is industry standard of a 25 percent markup to the list price of all new books. According to Finical, a used book is going to be 25 percent cheaper than a new book. However, some believe that publishing companies are trying to get rid of the market for used books.
“(The publishers) do it so that the new textbooks are out there and you can’t sell used books because they want to eliminate the used book market,” McRell said. “But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to have a used book market…We’re not the evil empire we’re made out to be sometimes. I would say that about any bookstore because there are rules that are attached to how we do it and we can’t venture from those rules.”
According to McRell, the 25 percent markup is set by the National Association of College Stores. However, not all of that markup is pure profit.
“Out of that margin, we have to pay payroll, any losses that we have, any damaged books, any theft,” McRell said. “So, by the time we get done, on textbooks, we don’t make a lot. If you’re going to make something, you’re going to make it in volume. You don’t make it off of per book because we maybe make 5 percent on a book.”
McRell wanted students to know that the bookstore does not purposefully drive up book costs. In fact, McRell would rather have an entire used book inventory and never have a need to switch book editions.
“Life is much easier if we don’t (switch editions),” McRell said. “But that’s not the reality of what we’re living in and so publishers change publications.”
Finical and McRell agree that there has been a decrease in new textbook sales, but McRell doesn’t know if that is because of a decrease in enrollment or due to more people buying books elsewhere. Finical is unsure if that decrease is because of the increased popularity of buying books online.
“It’s hard to say, but there has been a little bit of a decrease,” Finical said. “Everybody is more technological.”
Textbook Corner, which has been in operation for nearly 17 years, started a loyalty card in May, allowing students who spend $150 to save $5 on a future purchase. Over 1200 students are currently signed up for the loyalty card.
Although the Memorial Union bookstore has been in existence since Emporia State was founded, it did not become affiliated with Barnes & Noble until the mid 1980s. The MU bookstore has a contract with the university and pays a commission to the university based on sales. That commission helps subsidize student organizations and scholarships. MU Bookstore net sales are approximately $2.2 million per year.
“(For) every dollar that comes through here, there is a percent that comes back through to the university, and it’s about 10 percent,” McRell said. ” That’s a lot of money…we are here to support the university and we are here to support student services.”