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Published:November 1st, 2008 11:17 EST
Why are textbook prices so high?

Why are textbook prices so high?

By Mary-Elizabeth Hittel

Students at the University of Central Florida usually have money on the mind; whether its tuition costs or parking fees, but textbook prices have both students and professors concerned.  

"I don`t shop at the bookstore because of the prices," theater major Regina Gonzales said. I only get specialized books that I have to buy there, otherwise I shop online. If the bookstore really wants my money then they`ll lower their prices."

"Despite the demand for cheaper books the bookstore cannot lower prices," Brian Stark, Vice President of operations for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers said.   

"The price is determined by a contract drawn up between the university and the bookstore," Stark said. "Pricing is simple. The faculty files a book adoption; we find as many used books as possible and then get the difference from the publisher. Barnes & Noble is billed and the books are marked up 25 percent, according to the contract."

Stark explained: "the 25 percent mark-up is called the gross margin and Barnes & Noble uses the profits from the mark up to pay a commission to the university, pay employees (who are mostly students) and pay for freight, shipping expenses and return costs."

Still, students and professors feel that prices are too high.  

"When I take my students to France for the summer," language Professor Maria Grazia Spina said, "they pay about $20 to $25 a book. They cannot believe the price! In Europe, textbooks are definitely cheaper and students can go to bookstores that specialize solely in selling used books, so they can save money."

English major Ana Carolina Teixeira said although she buys books from the bookstore, prices should be lowered. "I think that $200 for a book is ridiculous," Teixeira said. "We`re students and don`t have a ton of money; our books shouldn`t cost so much."

Many students, similar to Gonzales, have resorted to buying their books online through Amazon and, but Stark said that online buying has not affected sales. People want to one-stop-shop," Stark said. "They want to have things be simple and buy the right product the first time."

Teixeira agreed. "I always shop at the bookstore because I want the right book, and I want that book to be in the best condition possible," she said. "I don`t trust books from online."  

Despite the contract, the bookstore is trying to keep prices as low as possible. "We can`t tell faculty what to buy," Stark said, "but we do encourage them to use previous editions that can be gotten used or from buy-back to keep the price down."  

Stark added that he knows how students feel. "I hear complaints about prices all the time," he said. "I remember how upset I was when I paid $60 total for my books. I went to the newspaper, the [Student Government Association] and the president of the school because I thought the book prices were outrageous."

Right now students are paid 50 percent of the original price of the book for buy-back, if the book is going to be used again. But students and faculty think that paying more will encourage more students to sell their books back. "Maybe if students were paid more, then there would be more used books," Spina said. "And more used books would definitely help to lower prices."