At the beginning of each semester, students inevitably gripe about the high cost of textbooks and may blame the bookstores for putting a dent in their budget. However, each sale benefits many sources, including University programs and professors who use their own texts.
The average undergraduate student spends $740 on books each year and students in professional-level and graduate programs spend around $860 each year, according to estimates by the Office of Financial Aid.
Textbooks prices are divided between various parties involved in the distribution and production of the textbook, with the main portion of the sale benefiting the publisher not the author or the bookstore.
According to information published by Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, 67 percent of the price of new textbooks goes to the publisher and about 18 percent is split evenly between the author and whatever university is using the book. About 2.5 percent is used to cover shipping costs and 12.5 percent is given to the bookstore to cover its operating expenses.
Not only does the publishing company receive the most from the sale of its books, the publisher also determines the price of textbooks, said University of Michigan Press Business Manager Gabriela Beres.
“There might be an occasion where we are able to get a discount on something or a better margin, but it is basically determined by the publisher,” said Bob Curre, a store manager at Shaman Drum Bookshop.
But while the publishers control the price of the books, professors have the ability to require students to purchase books they have written and profit from the sale of their books, Beres said.
In an effort to save money, many students buy their books used or sell their old books back to the bookstores.
“If a book is being used for a class we buy it back at 50 percent,” said Curre. “Then we actually sell them at 75 percent it”s pretty much standard across the country.”
But if the bookstore currently has enough copies of a book being used during the next semester, they will no longer buy the book for 50 percent.
“At times when we have bought enough books from students to fill a professor”s order, we can no longer pay 50 percent of the selling price for that title,” said information published by Barnes & Noble.
When a book is no longer used for a class, its buy-back price is much less and depends on the demand for the book, Curre said.
“We buy them back for a wholesale company These are places that make their money in dealing with used books,” said Curre. “It depends on what their needs are, but it is roughly 10 percent.”
Even if a book was used just once or is still in the original plastic wrap, it is still sold as a used book. In addition, many bookstores do not allow students to return their books for full price after the drop-add deadline because bookstores are under a deadline to return unsold books, Curre said.
This semester, Shaman Drum on South State Street has extended the deadline for returning books past the traditional drop-add deadline so students have more of an opportunity to get their money back for unused books, Curre added.
There are several services that offer students an alternative to the high prices of books at the bookstores. They include the Michigan Student Assembly”s Online Book Exchange, Student Book Exchange, the University Reserves Library and the University Coursetools website where professors can put readings online.