Anyone who has sold back their very expensive textbooks at the
end of the semester to only receive a small percentage back knows
of the resentment a lot of students have against the CSU Bookstore.
It has almost become a bragging right to see who has been ripped
off the most.
“I bought $400 worth and only got $120.”
“Yeah, well I bought $320 worth of books and they didn’t buy
almost any of them back and the ones they did, I only got $10.”
You have either heard people express their bitterness toward the
bookstore or have uttered those kind of comments yourself.
While students are busy complaining about how little they got
back on purchases they bought over four months ago, most don’t
realize how fortunate they are that they even have the option of
getting a little or anything back on these books, these books they
use or didn’t use over the course of the semester.
John Parry, who has been the CSU Bookstore director for the past
seven years, has plenty of experience of dealing with students who
think that the bookstore is in the business of ripping students
off. He explained to me the formula the bookstore uses when they
buy back books from students (and no, they don’t single you out to
screw you over).
To make one thing clear: the bookstore doesn’t decide which
books they sell. The bookstore receives requests from professors
and departments on which books will be on the shelves.
The bookstore buys back a book at the end of the semester if it
is either going to be used again the following semester or if the
bookstore can sell it to a textbook warehouse. If the bookstore has
a request from a professor or department, for the most part,
students will receive half of the new price of a textbook. So if
you’re returning a $100 organic chemistry book, the bookstore is
going to give you $50. The bookstore then turns around and sells
that same book on its shelf for 25 percent less than the new price;
$75, to cover salary, rent, electricity and other overhead
Second scenario, the bookstore doesn’t have a request from a
department or professor for that chemistry book but a used textbook
warehouse will buy it back from CSU. Parry said typically students
will receive 10 to 30 percent of the new price if it is going to be
sold to a warehouse. The percentage is lower because the warehouse
is a middleman; they have to turn around and sell that chemistry
book to a bookstore and make a profit.
Departments and professors have a deadline to submit textbook
requests to the bookstore so that the bookstore has time to
purchase new textbooks and so it knows which books to buy back from
students. The deadline for the spring 2004 semester was Oct. 15.
Parry said the bookstore usually receives 60 to 65 percent of
requests by the deadline. If a professor turns in a request past
the deadline, the bookstore might not have the time to buy back
books from students and have to resort to a warehouse. The more
requests Parry receives from departments and professors by the
deadline, the better the buyback system works. Parry said when he
started here, he was only receiving 10 percent of requests by the
deadline. Getting 100 percent of requests turned in by the deadline
is impossible, Parry said, but he noted that the buyback system is
One semester in 2001, the CSU Bookstore returned between
$300,000 to $400,000 to students through the buyback program – that
is 28,779 used books of which 12,680 where on the bookstore’s
shelves so students had a cheaper option than buying a new
textbook. That is a lot of money returned back to students’ pockets
and a lot of used textbooks for students to buy.
Students should maybe be grateful that they get something back
from those pesky textbooks and stop complaining the typical college
student complaint of “someone is trying to screw me over.” I know
how disappointing it is to have spent so much money on textbooks
but then to walk away with barely anything. I am a history major
and history professors have an unwritten minimum number of five
books for any class.
When you find yourself in the buyback line and you’re thumbing
through the pages of that psychology textbook with so much
knowledge and information inside and you’re disappointed by the
amount the bookstore wants for it, remember you do have the option
of keeping it.
Chris is a senior majoring in technical journalism and history.
He is the opinion editor for The Collegian.