Bookstore pumping up profits

By Stephen Barnett

By Stephen Barnett

Students in Kathryn Brooks’ Biology class can breathe a sigh of relief, because their instructor will not be using the $141 textbook.

Brooks decided not to use the book after learning it was marked up 47 percent over the $96 publishing cost. The average campus bookstore markup is 33 percent.

“No publishing company has the students’ best interest in mind, it’s up to the administration to keep the students’ best interest in mind,” Brooks said.

However, due to a contractual agreement with Riverside Community College, Barnes & Noble must give the college between 9-12 percent of any profit. According to the National Association of College Stores, “the money is for academic programs, student activities, systems automation, and a reduction in school operating costs.”

But an institutionally run bookstore, such as the one at the University of California, Riverside, is a non- profit organization. The 17 percent markup over publishing costs is just enough to cover the cost of boasting state of the art technology and a full staff.

In fact, attempts are being made to increase the buyback option for students. Joseph Picconatto, the Barnes & Noble manager on campus, said the payout for buying back books increased $22,429 during the final weeks of December over the $74,901 spent at the same time last year. Picconatto claims this is due to an increase in student awareness of this option.

Sean Cason, the associate Bookstore director at the University of California, Riverside said their buybacks created a 40 percent reduction in publishing needs.

Students set up a single table outside the Admissions building in order to sell their books directly to other students for more than that offered by Barnes & Noble.

Other students used the direct approach and waited outside classes with their texts looking for buyers.

Posters could also be seen around campus advertising used books. The University of California, Davis hosts a week long book exchange event, during which tents are set up near the student union building. Students have the option of selling their books directly and also purchasing other used books.

The possibility of a large book exchange in the quad met with no opposition from Picconatto. Such an event could be organized through student activities.

However, Picconatto said, “During the time we’ve done buybacks, no publishing company has been willing to assist with buybacks.” About 75 percent of the cost of textbooks is directly related to the price. However, the campus bookstore is free to set its own markup. Cason said he feels publishers “are the only reason for the high cost of textbooks.”

A Wall Street Journal article found that “in 1990, three big publishers of college textbooks accounted for 35 percent of industry sales. Today they have 62 percent.”

According to Picconatto these three publishers fluctuate their prices at the same time, limiting the availability of competitive textbook prices.However, according to math professor Biff Pietro, a change of authors or publishers has the potential to create a drastic short term drop in available textbooks.

“The faculty has done a wonderful job getting their orders in than ever before. It’s up to 75 percent compared to 40 percent the previous year,” Picconatto said. This helps create an available textbook for every student. Unfortunately, due to frequent class additions and some late requests, ordering texts is not always a smooth process.

The high cost of textbooks forces some students to seek alternative options, such as buying their books online. Another option available to students is to purchase some of their books at the University of California, Riverside.

“Over the last couple of years there has been a drastic increase in calls for textbooks from RCC students,” Cason said.

University of California, Riverside’s 17 percent markup compared to RCC’s 33 percent, begs the question, where exactly does the money go?

One response to “Bookstore pumping up profits

  1. RCC was a great place to work…and was a great place to mature under the direction of a lot of fine people of all races, creeds, colors religions and sexes…it was, in my opinion , a model for the Nation in terms of community college districts…and I was proud to serve it in a number of capacities under the direction of Salvatore Rotella and Sylvia Thomas…among others…I was proud to be the Academic President there and learn about shared governance…AB 1755…an assembly bill…thanks Sal “Pappa Due” Rotella…the Retired Chancellor of RCC…and Srt David Keers of the RCC Campus Police…we served and protected it…now you know…

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