What is a typical profit margin for a college bookstore?

Another angle to consider is that if the bookstore was run like the rest of the university I went to, then they may have been losing money even if they had charged a 400% mark-up.
Since the OP’s subject line was “What is a typical profit margin for a college bookstore?” you have to wonder if college bookstores charge more money than their independent competitors merely because they’re small, inefficient operations that are driven by goals that are institutional as much as profit and/or efficiency-driven.

Really? Are you sure? How can you tell it’s not simply an “official” copy that’s been taken apart and reproduced in a country that isn’t overly zealous about protecting U.S. copyrights? Either way, it’s marked “not for sale in America,” right?

Most used book stores seem to operate on a 50% gross margin, using a two-for-one trade-in system, or something like it. At least that’s the case for common, typical used books. Even at that, it’s hard to make a lot of money with a used book store, as the inventory can sit there on the shelf for years before somebody buys it. The rare book trade is a whole different animal.

There was an incredible amount of assumption and generalization in that sentence!

[li]college bookstores charge more money - Not all college bookstores charge more. [/li][li]than their independent competitors - Many college bookstores are independent.[/li][li]because they’re small - I’ve been in some extremely big college bookstores.[/li][li]inefficient - All of them? According to whom?[/li][li]driven by goals that are institutional - See “Many college bookstores are independent” above. When the college subcontracts the bookstore to an indy bookseller, I can just about guarantee they’ll be profit-driven.[/li][/ul]

All that said, I’m sure there are college bookstores that are textbook examples (snicker) of inefficiency, but that doesn’t justify the glaring generality of your post.

the people who managed my college’s bookstore were such bastards, yet my college defended their actions to the death. There were INCREDIBLE markups on books being sold there, even above retail prices listed on the back covers. I’m talking $79 for a book selling for $50 on Amazon…$40 with their every day discount. I’m not sure if what they were doing was even legal.

To make matters worse, most professors would help the bookstore gouge us by refusing to release the titles of the books for the course until the first day of class (or sometimes not at all…see the last paragraph), so that anybody who wanted to order would have to wait, often resulting in missing the first couple assignments.

Even worse than the gouging on the textbooks was the gouging on the LAB materials. Often a 15 page lab summary would be selling for $40. Most students just made copies for their friends, resulting in the physics dept printing each book with a unique serial # on each page, and registering every student’s serial # to make sure that everybody in the class was gouged equally.

Oh yeah, and the bookstore kept a special wing for textbooks, which students could not enter without an escort, lest they be caught writing down ISBN’s for books they wanted to order online.

Oregon State University’s bookstore hands out a flyer with every book purchase that has a graph showing where your textbook money goes. Assuming that every student resells his or her book back, they are making 5% on new books.