Student’s wallets may feel light after leaving the bookstore, but Carrie Mitchell, UNM Bookstore director, said her used book prices have been falling steadily since 2012.
In May 2012, UNM Bookstores implemented a new buyback system that has helped to drop the average price of used books by about 20 percent, or an average of about $13 per book, she said.
“Which adds up to quite a bit, especially when you’re talking about 10,000 books a year,” she said.
A number of students, including Jayme Salgado, have said they believe the bookstore is taking advantage of students through the buyback system. Salgado, a junior philosophy major, said the system is poorly planned and does not offer fair returns on used books.
“This is something that’s so important to us,” Salgado said. “They know we need the books, so they can charge us large amounts of money and give us a low amount of money for our returns.”
Mitchell sympathizes with student’s concern, but she said the new buyback system is actually working by saving students money in the long run.
The dynamics within textbook business is making a huge change and because of that, there are growing issues that need to be addressed, which is why UNM bookstore has changed the buyback system, she said.
In the old buyback system students would receive 50 percent of the new book value, Mitchell said. Now, bookstore staff uses an outside company to assess the average value for any book based on its market availability, she said.
Students still can receive up to 50 percent of the new value for their books, but they could receive less as well, Mitchell said.
However, that means the used book will be much cheaper when it is sold the following semester, because books are only marked up at a 25 percent retail margin, which is relatively low compared to most retailers that carry a 100 percent margin, she said.
“If we are paying students 50 percent and having to put the 25 percent margin on it the next semester to sell it, the prices can’t get lower,” Mitchell said.
Another concern students, like Bryan Erdman, said they have is why the bookstore often does not buy back certain textbooks at all.
“I have tried to sell back several books and nearly every time I have been rejected. It’s frustrating knowing how little of a chance the bookstore will buy back my used books,” Erdman, senior nuclear engineering major, said.
The bookstore receives books from wholesalers based on the UNM faculty’s needs, Mitchell said.
The bookstore staff does not know every book they can intake during the buyback period, because they stock 2,600 different titles each semester, however there are only 500 to 700 books the bookstore staff know will be used again, Mitchell said.
The UNM faculty determines what books will be used in the upcoming semesters, if faculty do not inform the bookstore staff before the buyback period, the bookstore staff cannot determine what books are eligible for buyback.
“When the faculty turns in their book lists after the buyback period we try to communicate with them that we could have bought back up to 300 of those books depending on the size of the class,” Mitchell said.
She said the faculty is not to blame, because sometimes they are unaware they will be teaching a course and other times the administration will not have hired a faculty member before the buyback period.
“I do believe there is a better way to do this and we are working on progressing towards a situation where everyone wins.”
Robert Salas is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.