The semester is coming down to the finish line and it’s about that time for students to sell back books for summer pocket money. For some students, it’s nice just to have that little extra money to finish off the semester, but selling back books is a borderline act of robbery.
The Sociology Club looks at the processes of how the University of Rhode Island’s textbook policy has been problematic. Each semester, textbook prices continue to rise and students are forced into paying high costs in order to have the correct book for each course in time for the start of classes. The typical scapegoat for students is the Bookstore, but there are complex factors that play a role in why the textbook issue exists. For instance, students often turn to other sources for textbooks and buyback. However, other sources, both for purchase and especially buyback, often cause the students to lose money in the long run.
If students researched their options, they could maximize their money, but most do not and instead are deceived by third parties. By purchasing from the Bookstore, funds go back into the university, a situation from which students can only benefit. Buyback from the Bookstore means the costs of textbooks for the next semester will be lower, as the Bookstore can resell those used texts cheaply rather than being forced to buy new or overpriced used books from third party companies.
A viable buyback program can help reduce a student’s overall book costs tremendously. The perception that the Bookstore can effect numerous titles and sell them at much cheaper prices would require the Bookstore to lower what they pay at buyback. The Bookstore would have to be able to purchase a majority of the books they need to resell from the students (at a lower buyback value) to be able to lower the price in the following semester. The Internet competition for buyback also means that the Bookstore may not be able to purchase enough used books if they are not paying a lower price.
Textbooks are increasingly becoming “custom,” making the ability to recoup some of the cost on buyback nonexistent or rare. This further discourages students who typically blame the Bookstore for the customization, but it is not their fault.
The notion that the Bookstore is not taxed as an education exception, which should enable it to be cheaper by default, is not plausible. Actually, the tax exemption only represents a small percentage of the Bookstore’s operational costs. The exemption alone is not a marginally significant amount. Also, for customers, Rhode Island does not charge a sales tax on book purchases, which many states do. The URI Bookstore pays all shipping costs and does not pass this cost on to the customer. On top of that, the Bookstore shoots to break even, not profit.
Margins have been once again lowered to reasonably price textbooks. If the bookstore was given books adoptions in a timely manner, used or new textbooks could be purchased at a lower price, and subsequently sold to students for a lower price. The later the textbooks are ordered, the more expensive they are and less used versions are available.
Additionally, the more the Bookstore has to pay for a book, the more they have to charge in order to break even.
Some teachers are also to blame for the book adoption procedures. Rarely, if ever, are teachers’ book adoptions received by the deadline. If an adoption is not received, the Bookstore cannot offer more or any money for many texts at buyback. For example, a $120 book with its adoption received on time may be worth $60 at buyback. With no adoption received, it may be worth nothing or only a few dollars. Faculty also sometimes change their adoption after textbooks are already ordered, received, or bought back, causing the Bookstore to absorb the loss.
For example, the Bookstore lost around $10,000 on one textbook last fall due to a textbook switch. Due to late or nonexistent adoptions, the Bookstore is often forced to guess if teachers will or will not continue to use a book. In some situations faculty are assigned to courses late and then get their textbooks adoptions late. Whenever you hear students complain about not getting enough money for buyback, it is almost always because their book adoption was not received.
If the Bookstore suffers a loss, only students lose, because the Bookstore is an auxiliary of the university. All of the auxiliaries ensure that the others break even via their funds. Only once that happens are the funds able to be used to improve auxiliaries, or have their funds used for other aspects of the university. The university, especially Provost, Donald H. DeHayes does not enforce this adoption deadline.
Publishers also often use deceptive measures to sell their editions. They often change editions, which creates lower buyback prices. In many circumstances this leads to discontinuance of the previous textbook for the following semester, as professors often adopt new editions because they either need them or fail to research them.
The most immediate solution to the problem is the establishment and enforcement of a strong adoption policy by Provost DeHayes. The Provost’s office has not declined to establish a textbook policy. They are willing to work through the problem and improve the situation. The Bookstore needs to provide its office and the academic departments with some tools to monitor the compliance rate for adoptions. Also, increasing awareness of the issue, and its various facets through sources of education for students, faculty, and administration will expedite the solution of this problem. Once all of the effected parties are made aware of and are educated on the topic, all of them can push for an enforced adoption policy and willingly follow it, for everyone’s sake.