Bookstore blues

Two competitors in the textbook industry can at least agree on one thing: textbooks cost too much.

Junior Jeremy Christensen said that his books for one class this semester cost between $300 and $350.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot of money,'” he said. Christensen dropped the class.

“Textbooks are really expensive,” said Shane Girton, associate director of textbooks for the University Bookstore.

He said that the bookstore’s profit accounts for only 4.1 percent of the price, but the majority of the cost comes from the publisher.

Not so, said Zack Neipp, owner of the new textbook reseller upstart, Beat the Bookstore, located on 1300 East near The Pie Pizzeria.

Textbooks are expensive, but that’s because bookstores add too much to the list price, Neipp said.

“So we get the [university’s] booklist and undercut them,” he said. “We are dedicated to beating [university] bookstore prices.”

Bookstore lists are part of public record, and though the Beat the Bookstore franchise has been sued by Utah Valley State College over the matter, it has prevailed.

The U’s bookstore sold its list for $30.

Girton said he didn’t see the new store as a bitter rival. Rather, he thought the competition would help keep textbook prices down.

“[Beat the Bookstore] is good in that it offers another avenue [and] gets rid of the stigma that we’re a monopoly,” he said.

Mike Anderson, a junior political science student, said despite its best efforts, the University Bookstore still irritates him.

Anderson, along with several other students in his writing class, bought a spiral-bound packet the University Bookstore said was mandatory. The professor said it wasn’t.

At first the store wouldn’t refund the books, but finally acquiesced, as long as the students still had their receipts.

“It seems ridiculous that materials have to have a receipt,” Anderson said. “Maybe the bookstore should be more worried about being competitive” instead of worrying about theft.

Neipp said Anderson’s story is precisely why Beat the Bookstore keeps track of their books and their customers via some “powerful” software.

He added that the same software helps his store find a way to make book buy backs worth more to the student.

The Beat the Bookstore and the University Bookstore buyback methods start out the same. Both check to see if a book will be needed at the U the next semester.

If not, both check to see if there are any wholesale stores that will buy the book for anywhere between 5 and 35 percent of what the student paid.

Here is where the U stops and Beat the Bookstore keeps going.

Because Beat the Bookstore is a national franchise, it can check to see if a book is needed at another store somewhere in the country. For example, a U professor might not require a book again for the next semester, but a professor in Texas or Iowa might.

Beat the Bookstore uses its networking to pass books among the stores. Eventually, the franchise hopes to become completely self-sufficient on passing books back and forth.

And, if there is still not a single store in the nation that needs the book, Beat the Bookstore sells it online.

Girton said that he, too, hopes advances in technology will help drive down textbook prices.

“The biggest thing that can help lower the cost is electronic media,” he said. With electronic books “publishers won’t be going through the printing process.”

Until then, Girton said students should continue to shop around for the best price, and include the U bookstore in their options.

“We have a monopoly on convenience. We’re not [a monopoly] as far as where to get books.”

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