Textbook sales fall at the FGCU bookstore
They search online for PDFs. They use websites such as Amazon, TextSurf and BigWords. Sometimes, they go to brick-and-mortar stores such as Textbook Brokers and Barnes and Noble. But, for many students, the last place they search for textbooks is the campus bookstore.
In fact, the bookstore’s combined net sales from used, new, rental and digital texts has been decreasing every year since 2011. The combined net sales in fiscal year 2011 were $4,813,255.51, and by fiscal year 2015 had fallen to $3,955,013.51. Net sales from rental textbooks increased between 2011 and 2014, and then fell by $167,544.66 in 2015. Net sales from digital textbooks increased by $8,781.81 in 2015 after falling in 2014.
FGCU junior Wesley Jean hasn’t purchased a book from the campus bookstore since his freshman year.
“The bookstore is so expensive,” Jean said. “I use Amazon or this website called Textsurf; it just compares all the prices for you.”
Many students order textbooks online rather than through the bookstore, and that shift in buying habits is reflected in the bookstore’s revenue.
“Textbook sales are down because of the competition,” said Loren Prive, the director of business operations. University bookstore sales are down across the nation. A May 2015 survey conducted by Akademos, a textbook and eLearning blog, found that 91 percent of colleges that participated in the survey have seen textbook sales decrease or stay flat.
FGCU has contracted the third-party service Follet to run the campus bookstore since the university opened its doors in 1997. As of August 2015, Follet manages more than 1,200 college bookstores across the country.
Professors must submit textbook orders several months before the beginning of each semester. Prive said the professors submit orders through an FGCU system, which sends the orders to the bookstore system. Once the bookstore processes the orders, the course catalog will update to show students which books are required for their courses.
Sometimes, professors try to stick with older editions of books to reduce the cost to students. Prive said it gets more difficult to find older editions after new editions come out.
Whenever professors order new textbooks or a new edition of a textbook, they have to type up their reasoning for switching books when they submit the order. FGCU has pricing provisions in its contract with Follet to help cut back on excessive markups of textbooks. For example, Follet is not allowed to sell a used book for more than 75 percent of the new book’s price. It also can’t mark up the price of a new book for more than 25 percent of its cost. In return for its free use of university space, the bookstore is required to pay FGCU 12.75 percent of its sales each month.
Prive couldn’t speak to other university bookstore contracts, but he said the 12.75 percent commission is about average.
“Everybody’s pretty close to that percentage,” Prive said.
To better compete with online retailers, the FGCU bookstore will be piloting a price-matching program this semester. If a student buys a textbook from the bookstore and then finds the same book somewhere else for less money, they can receive a bookstore gift card to make up the difference.
The price-matching system might entice students to go to the bookstore, but some, such as first-year student Cole Rucker, might avoid the bookstore their entire college career.
“I actually went to Textbook Brokers and just picked up a few,” Rucker said. He has never looked for textbooks at the FGCU bookstore. “I just swung by there because I thought it’d be cheaper.”
Financial aid recipients are able to use excess aid money to buy textbooks from the bookstore until Jan. 12, as long as the available aid is greater than the account balance for the semester.