National Association of College Stores

People hate the textbook store. Hate it.

It’s one of those universal truths common to any university across the country. We’ll do anything to avoid being forced into forking over our cash to this evil behemoth.

And for whatever reason, this hatred is directed not to the textbook itself but to the evil textbook store. The textbook is a necessary evil, yes, but why must you, evil textbook store, stuff your fat pockets with your obscene pro?t margins? Have you no shame, evil textbook store, you parsimonious porker, you greedy glutton?

Think I’m exaggerating students’ disdain? A recent article in The Daily Texan provided a laundry list of alternatives to the campus textbook store, The University Co-op. There’s Barnes and Noble, Chegg.com, BookRenter.com and local shop Austin TXbooks. In case you don’t recognize that last one, it’s because it used to be called Beat the Bookstore.

Beat the Bookstore? Really? I get the alliteration, but has the Co-op really risen to such sti?ing proportions that we must defeat it?

In fact, a recent fictional survey of collegians revealed that the four most hated professions, in order, are: 1. divorce lawyer, 2. serial killer, 3. Kanye West, 4. textbook store employee.

Why do we hate the textbook store so much? Perhaps it’s because we feel like we’re being forced into a purchasing decision. We have to buy the textbook, and often the bookstore is the only one that stocks books for specialized UT classes. Because alternatives do exist, and they’re often cheaper, the store must be pocketing excess pro?t, right?

But is this characterization fair? As an undergraduate at another university, I worked in the campus textbook store and gained a different perspective.

First of all, the pro?ts aren’t as excessive as we would imagine. In fact, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), the poor, yes poor, bookstore only pulls in four cents of pre-tax pro?t for every dollar spent on new textbooks. Where does the rest go? Most of it’s wholesale cost to pay the author and publisher as well as to print, publish and market the book. How do I know this? Because it’s hung as a giant poster behind the cash register at my previous university. Does any other store have to defend itself like this? It’s as if the textbook store is squeamishly trying to tell you, “See, we’re not so bad after all. We’re poor, too.”

And where else have I seen that poster? Oh yeah, behind the register at The University Co-op.

But what about those fat cats that work there? They must be raking it in with a captive market at their ?ngertips. Well, according to the NACS, the typical store director is 48 years old and makes $45,532 per year. Nice for sure, but not exactly rich Uncle Pennybags.

Despite its meager earnings, the textbook store must endure the negative perceptions of students and adopt unorthodox practices. Does any other store allow the purchase and use of its product for months, only to buy back the product for nearly half the price when you’re done using it? I don’t think so.

While working at the bookstore I helped students who thought it was absurd they could not buy the book for a weekend, use it to study for an exam and then return it for full price after the test.

Unfortunately, textbook stores are actually being forced into the market of renting out textbooks.

Renting books? Don’t we have this already? Isn’t it called a library?

So give the so-called “evil” textbook store a break. Support a local business and don’t hate.