Jan 182012
Authors: Bailey Constas

While CSU Bookstore officials say that they’ve tweaked their system to be more user-friendly, some students and professors say this is far from the case.

Donna Rouner, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, said her recent run-ins with the bookstore have given her some reasons for concern.

“They always seem to make the claim that the cost of books is so high because of professors,” Rouner said. “… I bend over backwards to get my students the best deal.”

Rouner detailed an incident where, after ordering a new edition of a book she wanted to use in one of her classes, the publisher decided to print it only as a hardcover, costing students $54 versus $24. The bookstore failed to inform her.

Because of this unforeseen price difference, Rouner decided to buy four books out of her own pocket for students to reserve from the library.

“They should have given me an option,” Rouner said. “I would have said I just didn’t want it.”

Part of the issue, Rouner said, lies in the fact that the bookstore asks her to pre-order books even when her class schedule hasn’t been fully determined.

“I’ve gotten these notes around the week the orders are due saying, ‘If you don’t have your book order done you’re responsible for causing huge excessive costs’…we frequently do not know what classes we will be teaching for the next semester,” Rouner said.

But bookstore officials say that the early ordering deadline is necessary to cut costs.

“We try to order as many books as we can use so we can fill 100 percent of the demand,” said John Parry, the director of the CSU Bookstore. “The earlier we start, the more chance we have to find used books.”

According to Parry, professors were required to submit their book orders for the spring semester on Oct. 15.

“Thirty-five percent of professors met that deadline, and 65 percent didn’t, which means it cost us,” Parry said.

Professors aren’t the only ones with complaints come textbook buying season.

“I spent $450 on books last semester and then I got $50 back and then they resell my book for more than that,” said freshman business administration major Lisa Rayburg. “So where is my money going?”

According to Parry, the bookstore is owned and operated by CSU, making it technically non-profit. Excess funds gained from revenue go toward paying the bookstore’s rent, contributing to Lory Student Center renovations, maintenance and various student activities.

But Parry says that doesn’t mean the bookstore doesn’t make every effort it can to cut costs for students during its process.

It begins by creating and sending out a “want list” to various used book vendors to see if they can meet CSU’s demand for used books.

To set prices and make sure their inventory is cost-efficient, the bookstore takes into account the number of books students will be selling back and how many students used the books the previous semester.

“If the book is used on campus we will buy at half of the new book price whether the student bought it used or new,” said Parry.

“We have limits, depending on how many people will be in the class next semester. We can only buy back books that we will sell for spring,” he added.

Once the bookstore reaches the limits, Parry encourages students to sell books to wholesalers that will offer students prices that depend on the national market.

When it comes to switching old editions of books to new ones, Parry said, “It’s really not us, it’s the publisher that is the one that has the decision to make only the newer edition available.”

“The life span of a textbook is roughly three years. Every three years we see an edition change,” Parry said.

The last new cycle of books began in 2010, marking this year as a halfway point in the cycle.

Parry said different subjects are prone to faster edition changes, with courses such as political and computer science seeing changes almost every year.

On Jan. 3, a new textbook comparison went live on the CSU Bookstore website that lets students plug in their schedule and compare prices from various sources such as the CSU Bookstore, Amazon, Half.com and Alibris.

Parry also said that the bookstore lowered prices by $500,000 in discounts for this year.

High book prices have been a side-effect to education for decades, however other tips for getting the best price include shopping early to make sure you get the best selection, consider sharing books with friends, or using books put on reserve at the Morgan Library.

Collegian writer Bailey Constas can be contacted at news@collegian.com

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