Bookstore not to Blame

Publisher has power to set prices

The Barnes and Noble bookstore on the Ferris State University campus is charging students outrageous prices for textbooks, but it may not be the bookstore’s fault.

Last fall I experienced my first encounter with the bookstore on the Ferris State campus. The bill for my books came out to be around $300. Thinking this was normal, I purchased the books without a second thought.

A few days after I purchased my books I overheard students talking about how overpriced the books at the store were. When I asked them why, and they told me that new books online were about half the price of those in the bookstore.

Being a little concerned, but thinking it was too late to do anything about it, I quickly forgot about the bookstore crisis as I enthralled myself in schoolwork. When the second semester came around I paid the outrageous prices again, not thinking twice.

This semester, however, is a little different. Being in a tighter financial situation has made me pay closer attention to the price tags on my textbooks. I was shocked to find that buying my books online cut my costs in half.

Students are not the only ones that are upset with the bookstore. Several professors I have spoken with have expressed concern that the store does not seem to be a student-oriented place. Some professors have even gone so far as to tell the store they are over charging students, but nothing has been done.

While some professors are looking out for the students’ pocket books, other professors actually make their students purchase a textbook they authored. Everytime one of their books is purchased, they make a profit. These books are often harder to find online and would be available only at the bookstore. Are these professors looking out for their students or just trying to make more money?

At first, I was extremely upset with the bookstore and thought their intentions were only to take advantage of the students, but after speaking with Jade Roth, Vice President of Barnes and Noble Booksellers, I came out with a new prospective on book pricing.

Roth said that the publishers set a base price for textbooks that the store can do nothing to change. A margin is then added to the cost so the bookstore makes a profit. This profit is actually smaller than I expected. Roth said that a portion of the profit made by the bookstore is actually given back to the school and put towards other programs, as stipulated in their contract.

Roth also said that the professors chose the books for their courses and sometimes the store has no other choice than to go through an expensive publisher because they are the only people that publish that text. This poses the question about whether professors should look at how much the books they choose will cost their students.

Professors should be more considerate of the costs of their chosen texts. If a professor has a student’s interest at heart they would put in the extra time to research all the options available and find a good book at a suitable price.

Textbook companies do research every year to make changes that professors say they want. Publishers often change only a few minor things about a textbook and often bundle the newer editions with study guides and CD’s and raise the price even more.

Another problem students are faced with is new editions of books coming out every year. Publishers will also buy back the used textbooks students sell at the end of the semester so that there are less used versions available.

It seems that the publishers’ main goal is not to serve students, it’s to serve themselves under the guise of serving the professors, even though students are the consumers.

Also, if the publisher decides to put out a new edition for an upcoming school year, the current edition is worth practically nothing when students go to resell it.

As a student in less than perfect financial circumstances, it matters a great deal to me how much I pay for a textbook. My research and experience has shown me that cheaper options are available to students who look for them and they are definitely worth investigating. I strongly believe that until publishers and bookstores can work together to come up with a suitable and affordable price for textbooks, students should seek other options vigorously.