Bookstore challenged with providing affordable textbooks

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Textbooks in the Bookstore. Photo by Kenna Swihart, The Campus Ledger.

Jack McConathy 

Special to The Ledger

Textbooks are a crucial factor in the rising cost of college education. Their increasing costs has tasked the college’s Bookstore with providing students with books that are both reputable and affordable.

Choosing a course’s textbook starts with the instructor. Once the book is chosen, it goes through what Kristine Herman, assistant manager, Bookstore, calls “the textbook adoption process.”

“The College values academic freedom [and] so does the Bookstore,” Herman said. “We want the instructors to choose the book that best fits their course, regardless of [the] publisher.”

When professors select a textbook, the Bookstore seeks out suppliers. The majority of the college’s textbooks are published by three major companies: Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson Education.

However not all books are bought directly from these companies, as third-party suppliers often offer cheaper prices. The condition of the book as well as the place of purchase determine the price of the textbook.

“The Bookstore is owned by the college, so we’re not just a retail business that is trying to price-gouge students,” Herman said. “ No, [the students] are our priority and we want to make sure that we are offering the best materials at the lowest cost. So, sometimes the cheapest option is to provide a loose-leaf book with an [online text] code because hardcover books are expensive.”

Vincent Amiri, student, is one of the millions of students faced with purchasing textbooks at the beginning of the semester.

“[My] Biology textbook accounts for just under half of my entire costs [for textbooks],” Amiri said. “You can only get it new because it has the code for the online [component].”

Amiri dug up his receipts from this semester and last semester and found only a $1 difference in payments when he compared the two, despite buying more books last semester.

Amiri preferred purchasing course material through the Bookstore rather than Amazon.

“I bought one of my books through Amazon this semester, but I usually prefer to do it through the [college’s] Bookstore,” Amiri said. “It’s easier and I know it’s the right one.”

Herman believes the Bookstore is a crucial part of the college, and its success greatly benefits both students and faculty.

“All of the money spent at the Bookstore stays on campus,” Herman said. “It goes to other programs on campus, [such as] the Child Development Center. Any books that aren’t being used at the end of the semester get shipped off to Thrift Books, and the money made from that goes to student scholarships.”

According to the College Board, an American student spends, on average, upwards of $1,200 a year on course materials. Findings like these have led many to believe big publishers like Pearson, Cengage and Mcgraw-Hill are artificially hiking textbook prices.

Amiri believes they are gouging, or unfairly raising, prices for millions of students every year.

“I bet the publishers are making a pretty big profit off of each [book],” Amiri said. ”It’s especially bad with how they come up new editions every year or two years, rendering the old one obsolete.”

However, Amiri believes the Bookstore operates in an ethical manner. He believes that they are actively helping to curve the highest prices set by the big publishers. He also believes that had the College not stepped in and sold their own science lab workbooks, there would be a significantly higher price tag.

Amiri said, “The fact that it’s only $30 for the lab manual [made by the College] — that makes me suspect that the pricing issues are more [on the] publisher side, and not some malicious plan from the Bookstore.”

 

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