The High Cost of Textbooks (Redux)

Here's another "redux" posting (by the way, redux means "brought back," or "restored"), updating a previous post about the price of textbooks.

A few weeks ago, I sent my concerns about textbook prices to the manager of the Bookstore. He told me that the prices of textbooks reflect their "actual markup, which is 5 % above list price." (List price, again, is the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Key word: "suggested," not "required" or "obligated/") Armed with knowledge of the 5%-pricing scheme and the list prices given to me by the publishing company representatives, I started calculating what the prices on the shelf should have been (i.e., list price multiplied by 1.05). Result: they didn't match. According to my calculations, the Bookstore's prices were too high.

Again, I contacted the bookstore about this, and was now told that "shelf price is based on margin not markup. The calculation is the net price divided by .75 not the list price multiplied by 1.05."

When I talk to publisher's reps, I try to negotiate the best price for a textbook, attempting to keep the list price as low as possible. This, it now turns out, is a complete waste of time--because the price for the book on the shelf is based on the net price (how much it costs the bookstore for each book), not the list price. The manager also told me, "All of our reps are given this information so when they are quoting prices with the instructors they are passing on accurate information." Well, that didn't happen in this case. In fact, it seems reps (and instructors) are not aware of the Bookstore's formula for calculating shelf prices.

I hope this post will clear up this issue, and make things more transparent for everybody. But I'm still not happy about it.

Why aren't you studying?

- - - - - - - - - - -

Update: The UofA SU and the UofA Bookstore have jointly created CRAM: Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials, focusing on making textbooks more affordable.


Find It