Advertising sophomore Katie Funk spent $400 on textbooks this spring. When she sold them back at the end of the semester, the bookstore paid her $28.
“It sucks because two of the books that I bought I couldn’t sell back,” she said. “We pay ridiculous amounts of money and we get back pennies for them.”
Funk’s predicament is not uncommon around the end of the semester at the University.
Bob Crabb, director of University of Minnesota Bookstores, said about 45 percent of students sell their books back at University bookstores each semester, most of whom receive far less than what they paid. But one campus bookstore is planning to change how book sales and buybacks work.
The Student Bookstore in the Dinkydome intends to use a rental system starting in the fall where students would rent a textbook for 20 to 50 percent of the new book price and return the book at the end of the semester.
“It will tremendously cut down textbook costs,” store manager Pradeet De Noronha said. “With everything else going up, we are trying to do what we can to bring down costs on our end.”
According to the University Senate, students on average pay about $450 a semester for books.
“Our rental program would bring that down to about $100, $150,” De Noronha said. “Maybe even $200 max for all your big books.”
Currently, all University campus bookstores follow the same buy-back system. If an instructor has notified the bookstore that the same book will be used the next semester, the bookstore will buy that book back for 50 percent of the new book price regardless of whether the book was bought new or used.
If an instructor has not indicated that a book will be used the next semester, the bookstore will pay the wholesale price of the book. If the wholesaler will not buy the book, the bookstore will not take the book back. Wholesalers pay an “average between 15 and 20 percent of the new book price,” Crabb said.
“When you buy a book for $100 and all you get is $15, I’m sure it feels like you’re getting ripped off,” Crabb said. “If we’re buying it for the wholesalers, then we can only pay what the wholesalers are willing to pay.”
“Everybody does it across the country. There’s nothing new in this,” Harry Cade, manager of Oak Street Textbooks, said of the buyback rates. “It doesn’t change. It’s too small of an industry.”
But De Noronha said the reason buyback programs haven’t changed is because no other bookstores want it to change.
“If anyone else wanted to do it they would’ve done it years ago,” De Noronha said. “I know all these other bookstores are going to follow suit as soon as they see us do it.”
Crabb said he has carefully watched the Wisconsin state schools that use rental programs. He said the schools that use the program have to require instructors to use a certain book for a set amount of semesters.
“If you want to attract really good faculty you can’t tell them what books they have to use,” Crabb said.
But Cory Miller, the bookstore director at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said they have not needed to compromise on quality instructors to use their rental system.
“Sometimes when (the instructors) first come in they buck a little bit,” she said. “But they have a huge resource to use and they realize that it’s better for the students.”
Crabb said maintaining the rental program would be too costly and that the current buyback program saves students more money.
“We’ve looked at the economics of it very carefully,” Crabb said. “If (the Student Bookstore) can make a go of it … I would certainly watch that carefully.”
Funk said she also would have an eye on the new program.
“I would definitely use the rental system,” Funk said. “Being out $25 is better than being out $60 or more.”