Used books (Image credit: William Ross)

A recent article out of a Michigan newspaper had some interesting news and statistics about a local college bookstore and the college textbook market in general.

According to the article, Grand Valley State University’s campus bookstore, which is known as University Bookstore, is trying to reduce the price of textbooks by focusing on used books. The article states that most college bookstores have an inventory that is made up of about 30% used textbooks. The majority of the inventory is comprised of brand new books. At the GVSU University Bookstore, roughly half of the textbooks in stock have been previously owned and are therefore priced more reasonably for students. GVSU is located in Allendale, Michigan and enrolls over 24,000 students each year.

There are several methods that a bookstore can use to include more used books in its inventory. Perhaps the primary method to achieve this is to encourage students to sell their used books back to the bookstore at the end of each semester. GVSU guarantees it will buy back a large number of textbooks. In order to achieve this, bookstores must offer competitive buyback rates, especially in today’s market where many students can turn to the Internet to get better prices on their used books by offering them to students around the world. Another method is that bookstores must not buy as many copies of new books as other stores do. This can be a challenge since so many new editions of textbooks are printed frequently, and many professors like to use the most current texts in their courses for obvious reasons.

Another interesting number in the article is that college students typically spend, on average, about $1,168 per year on textbooks and school supplies. This number is according to the College Board’s 2011 Trends in College Pricing. Let’s say a student purchases a dozen textbooks in one academic year. On average, that student is spending close to $100 per book. The article also points out the students pursuing a degree in health or medicine tend to spend more on textbooks because these books are updated more often than books on history or writing, for instance. In addition, textbook prices are rising at a rate of four times faster than the rate of inflation. All of these statistics point to the reason why students must purchase used textbooks if in order to survive financially, especially those who are studying health sciences.

Although many official college bookstores offer a variety of used books, GVSU’s campus store seems to be one of only a few that are actively and outwardly trying to reduce the cost of textbooks by making a statement that the store really wants to help students save money. The GVSU bookstore does not offer textbook rentals, and less than 1 percent of its revenues come from digital textbooks. But since students can’t sell back these types of books to the bookstore, the staff here feels as if used books are the best option for savings. Let’s hope more and more stores take this bookstore’s lead and follow suit.