What is a typical profit margin for a college bookstore?

I was wondering if I am being gouged by the bookstore, publishers or both.

Based on my experience, the markup in college bookstores is about the same as other bookstores. See for example this statement on “Profit Margin and Pricing Policy” at the CCSF website, or this one from BYU.

In very general terms, the reasons that textbooks are so expensive is because of the production costs associated with publishing short runs. However, it is my belief (as I have said in other threads) that current digital technologies and print-on-demand services should have resolved that problem.

In an open market, nobody would pay $100 for a textbook, but when that book is required for a class, the students have no choice.

I’ll stop before I stray into GD territory… :slight_smile:

I was given a $10 dollar credit voucher from the Shaman Drum Bookshop. The textbook was priced at $60. Students discovered that it was sold at $50 or less everywhere except Shaman Drum. Possibly to quell dissatisfaction, Shaman Drum gave the voucher along with a sheet of paper explaining how important an independent bookshop is to the local community. Shaman Drum is the only independent bookstore on campus.

I don’t want to turn this into a GD so I will conclude that the profit margin was at least 14%.

OTOH, on used books it’s just the bookstore that’s gouging you.

I think ours bought at 25-50% and sold at 75% of the original price.

The bookstore at the small private college I teach for charges a 40% markup on all products they sell, used or new.

My experience is that there is rarely a requirement that students purchase the books and supplies from THE bookstore–just that they have the required books or supplies before they need them for class. Froogle (froogle.google.com) is a great way to compare prices by ISBN number. I provide all of my students with the ISBN number of the textbook, and give them a week or so before they actually have to have the book in hand.

Take it FWIW, but I just did a temp stint at a campus bookstore and according to the manager the resale prices are largely at the mercy of the publishers as well. She said that the store is required to use the wholesale price as a guide for setting used book prices. What if any effect that has on buyback prices she didn’t go into.

In college, one of my professers had written a textbook on his subject. He said that his own income from the book was quite paltry. It’s the publishers who rake it in.

OTOH, the bookstore does indeed rape you with the used books. I have plenty of bitter memories of the bookstore buying back my old textbooks (which sometimes cost as much as $70 or $80) for like 10 or 20 bucks, and then turning around and selling that book used for about $55.

It became pretty routine for students to cut out the middleman by advertising in the school paper or the local independent weekly, or even by putting up posters near the bookstore. One malcontent even went into the bookstore with flyers and sandwiched them into the stacks near the titles he was selling: “If you’d rather buy a gently-used copy of this for $10 less than the beat-to-hell copies here, call Jim at x3333. Class notes included.”

In my opinion, if you’re still selling your textbooks back to the college bookstore (and not on eBay or Amazon or into a truly free market) you’re Barnum’s best friend.

It is amazing how the internet has made this market more competitive. When I was going to school 10 years ago, I think you could technically buy the books online, but they would cost list price + pretty pricey shipping so it would be silly. And there was no eBay or anything to buy used back then.

Now I’ve even heard of people importing textbooks from India because they are priced so much lower it’s economically viable. That’s progress.

I used to buy Indian textbooks for my computer science classes. The Indian textbooks were exactly the same as the American ones, except they were in softcover and they were black and white, and they cost $20 each and were marked for not in sale in America. :rolleyes: I thought, “free trade works both ways, screw 'em” and bought the Indian books.

My wife has a textbook for one of her current classes that comes complete with a “Specially Printed for Jimbo State University” note on the inside cover.
I had a textbook in college written by the professor I took the class under. There were workbook pages in it. You had to turn in your homework ON THE ORIGINAL workbook pages. Not only did you have to buy the book at the campus bookstore, the books were not useful for resale.

Another tactic I’ve seen used to make books un-resellable is to include some software on a cd and a free month’s subscription to some stupid online service. Regardless of the fact that the professor who taught the class the book was required for never used the cd or the website, the campus bookstore would not take a return because, of course, we could have used up the free month’s worth of idiocy.

For most books, I’d just get them from the library. There were usually a few copies of each course’s text at the library for general checkout (in addition to a few copies that had to be used on the premesis), so if you got there first, you could check 'em out for the whole semester. If not, well, I’d just schlep down to the library. I got more work done there, anyway.

While I won’t go as far as dre2xl and SmackFu (as a writer, I oppose illegal copyright violation), I have a serious problem with a lot of college textbook distribution schemes. Many of those publishers refuse to sell to independent bookstores, so the college bookstores won’t have any competition. I like the idea of students getting together and forming their own used book exchange. I like even better the idea of authors writing good enough textbooks that students want to keep them, but that’s another whole discussion…

By the way, Diceman called it right on author profits. I wrote a book that’s used as a text in several colleges. The students pay $50.00 or more (the publisher didn’t print the list price on the book so college bookstores can charge what they please), and I get a bit under $2.50 per book. Given typical classes in this subject matter have about 20 students, my total income on a whole class isn’t even the retail price of one book–less than the professor gets for one hour of teaching.

Please excuse my ignorance, but is that a lot?

I don’t know but that’s $10 dollars more than any other bookseller in the area was offering. If everyone is selling at around $50, it is somewhat a substantial markup, enough to get everyone to complain. However, I don’t have any problems with the bookshop because most of the workers are students. I’m really paying $10 dollars extra to get good advice on others couses I might take next semester.

The largest book wholesaler in the US usually offers 40% discount off suggested retail price on titles it distributes. Many textbooks are offered on those terms although the discount offered can vary all the down to zero.

A general bookstore may be willing to sell some books at a low margin, knowing that the bulk of their trade makes more money; more specialist shops may mark up some prices to ensure all their titles make an ‘adequate’ margin.

Small orders, or orders direct from small publishers, can also incur carriage charges, which also eat into the shop’s margin.

InvisibleWombat, I don’t know if it’s illegal any more than owning an import DVD is. It’s not a bootleg, it’s still the same official publication by the company. The company was merely trying to adjust prices to a country where the cost of living is much much much lower than in the United States and then trying to force us to pay the higher price. If they weren’t still making a profit, they wouldn’t have published these books.

It’s hard to conclude that anyone except the publisher is raking in the huge bucks here.

I don’t know what an acceptable profit margin is on used books, so I’m not debating that. Since I managed to enroll in more postsecondary school than most rational humans would pursue, I have been on the losing end of these schemes for years and years and years. So I’m sympathetic. But surely we can agree that some markup is fair.

Bookstores often do buyback at the end of one term (say, end of Winter/spring term) and then have to manage, organize, and store them until fall term. There is some staff and overhead expense involved in any case, but storage and transport may also be an issue. I don’t know what the right markup is, but the bookstore is entitled to some.

I knew a prof who wrote the text in his narrow field of expertise. He then published the book himself through a small vanity publishing house. He had dozens of boxes filled with the text in his garage, and sold the book that way. I still have my copy, and refer to it from time to time.

The bookstore I used to work at had a textbook markup of 20%. This basically covered shipping costs. The money is made in merchandise. However, this bookstore was strictly not-for-profit, and any and all profits were given to the school.

The people making the most money from textbooks are textbook wholesalers. They pay pennies on the dollar for books and charge an amazing markup to sell them back to the retail outlet.