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The Importance of Used Books

Definitions
  • New books are textbooks shipped by publishers or distributors to the store.
  • Used books have had at least one previous owner. Although they may not be in perfect condition, they are just as effective at delivering content. For students, used books cost about 25% less than a new one.
Benefits of Used Books to the Store and Customer

  There are numerous economic and environmental reasons why the store makes the effort to include "used books" in the mix of inventory offered to customers.

  1. Both the store and the customer pay less at point of purchase. Both parties save money!
  2. The student can save even more if the store or wholesale company will buy back the used book when the student is finished with a class.
  3. The store can save by lowering the cost of inventory and avoiding the expense of having books shipped from another source.

Products that can be reused or recycled are environmentally friendly. Textbooks use up many resources in the printing and binding process. The "Save a Tree" principle applies to the business of reselling textbooks. 

How the Savings Work  

The store pays ½ of the retail price for a used book instead of ¾ of the retail price for a new book. The savings are passed on to students who pay ¾ of the retail price for a used book instead of 100% of the retail price.

Example: If a book retailed for $80 in new condition, both the store and the student would save $20 on the cost of a used book.

A good used book program can save students hundreds of dollars during their college years.

Example: A student buys a used book at ¾ of the new price and resells the book at ½ of the new price, a savings of 75%.

There are many variables, but even a wholesale price of 20% ($16 on a $80 new book) significantly reduces the student's cost for a recently completed class.

Where Used Books Come From

Used books come from two sources:

  • Buying them back from students
  • Obtaining them from outside sources
The Textbook Cycle
  • At the beginning of the term: students buy new and used textbooks.
  • Around the mid-term: instructors select the books they plan to use the following term: The store tries to get instructor's adoption forms before buyback to determine which titles to buy back from students. With an adoption form on file, the store can pay the best price and acquire the used books students' need for the next term.
  • At buyback: books are bought back from students.
  • After buyback: books bought back from students either remain in the store to be sold next term, or are shipped where they can be used.
  • Before rush: The store uses a process called "want listing" to acquire from outside sources, the used books it needs, but was unable to buy back from students.
Players Involved
  • Students are the primary source for recycling used books. The student purchases books required by the instructors. They incur a cost, but it is not an investment. Students as sellers have no investment risk, and as a result cannot control the buyback price. They can, of course, refuse to sell books.
  • Stores create an environment that encourages recycling used books on the campus. The store invests effort, expense and cost of inventory. They also assume some risk by investing in inventory that must be resold to another student to avoid a loss.
  • The wholesale book company facilitates recycling used books by its willingness to buy books that no longer have value to the student and that the store cannot risk buying for inventory. The wholesale company buys books on speculation and assumes the risk of losing on the investment if the inventory cannot be resold.

Wholesale companies sell their used book inventory at a 50% discount from the retail price. In some cases the discounts are 2/3 the retail price. Bookstores across the country try to add to their used book inventory by ordering from the wholesale companies.

How Buyback Prices are Determined

The buyback value of a book is based on whether the title will be used again on campus. If not, then national demand determines the buyback price.

  • Tier One: For titles that will be used on campus the following term, we pay 50% of the current retail price up to the buyback need or "target" quantity determined by the store.
  • Tier Two: For titles with value nationally that either will not be used on campus next term, or have already met their target quantity, we pay wholesale price.
  • Books that have no market value are not bought back. Books with no market value include: titles with low national demand, books in poor condition, aging editions and books that are out of print.

Note: Aging editions command less and less as their revision date approaches. When a new edition is released, the old edition loses its market value.

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