A new quarter comes and that means that students have to shell out the cash to purchase new books. With this occurring four times a year, books take a large chunk of a student's budget.
However, a lot less of that money goes to the bookstore than people assume, Robert Perks, textbook manager at the Western Associated Students Bookstore, said. The book buying and selling business is complicated, with factors that change as the process evolves. Prices of textbooks are set by publishers and in turn, large publishing companies sell 40 percent of the books that students at Western buy. This means the book prices are controlled almost exclusively by large corporations, leaving little room to adjust prices.
According to Perks, Western is unique because they offer students a 10 percent discount off of the publisher list price. They are also different when it comes to buying back textbooks. A deal that has been in place for several years through the bookstore and the Associated Students lets the bookstore purchase student text books back at 50 percent of the new price, regardless of whether the student bought the book new or used.
Despite the steep prices of textbooks, the bookstore sees a small percentage of the revenue after it is done being split apart. According to the National Association of College Stores, the breakdown of the textbook dollar is as follows: 32.3 cents goes to publisher's paper, printing and editorial costs, 11.6 cents is the authors income, 10.0 cents goes to publisher's general and administrative, 15.4 cents is for publisher's marketing costs, 6.6 cents for college store operations, 1.2 cents for freight expense, 11.3 cents goes to the publisher's income, and finally, 4.5 cents is the college store income. However, the case of Western's bookstore, the 10 percent discount off publishers' prices results in less then 3 percent income for the store. A portion of the excess income is then funneled into the AS.
Students have several sources where they can purchase books like the Western Associated Students Bookstore, the Internet, or other bookstores. However, Perks encourages students to buy from Western's bookstore as a way of supporting a local business. If students do purchase books from other places, they are still allowed to sell them back during buy-back time, as long as they are the correct edition and are needed for the next quarter.
If students want to purchase books online, Perks said he warns them to be careful about the seller and giving out credit card information. Also, many textbooks online aren't shipped for a couple weeks, leaving students stranded at the beginning of the quarter.
Despite lower prices, buying books on-line sometimes results in a big headache for students.
“I ordered from Amazon.com because I thought it would be a lot cheaper because private sellers sell their used books. I got my physics and my econ books for half the price that I would have paid at the bookstore,” freshman Katie Breiwick said. “And then three days later my physics book order got canceled and I got refunded. The seller then sent me the completely wrong econ book and I couldn't get a hold of him to get the correct book. Amazon finally refunded me, but I was left with no books.”