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Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette
Lisa Marqueling, left, poses for a photo in the listing area of the warehouse where Joey Smith lists books into the Book Daddy computer system. Book Daddy, a local company, opened in February on Hillegas Road.

Table of discontents

As textbook prices soar, students seek out money-saving alternatives

Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette
Erica Vincent carries books through the Book Daddy warehouse sorting area.

Textbooks and bucks.

U.S. college store sales recorded more than $10.4 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to the National Association of College Stores.

Students spent an average of $662 on required course materials in the past 12 months.

Last month, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved a 5 percent increase – $44 million – that boosts the state’s maximum student financial aid awards.

While that will assist students, other help is available, said Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint and a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a non-profit research and education organization.

In addition to more affordable e-books, a bevy of options are available to students trying to save money on textbooks. Besides purchasing used publications, rental programs and off-campus booksellers are available.

“The average textbook costs $250 to $300,” he said. “Over the past five years, prices have almost doubled. I call it a cartel. It’s just not a sustainable model, much like the housing bubble.”

Nineteen-year-old Jimmece Jenkins of Fort Wayne can attest to that. The Detroit native said she likely will enroll at IPFW in the fall, but book prices are a deterrent.

“They’re expensive that’s for sure,” she said. “I spent at least $400 on books and that was just for one course. I wish they would keep the editions affordable because a lot of people have to use financial aid.”

Perry said college book publishing is in the hands of only a few, which eliminates a competitive reason to lower book prices. Giants such as McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson Education have a lock on higher education materials, he said.

It comes as no surprise that other companies are cropping up in trying to meet students’ need for cheaper books, while making a profit of course. The latest is Book Daddy, which debuted in February. The store, 4121 Hillegas Road, buys and sells used books, promising a premium on buyback prices.

“Our books go really quickly,” said Lisa Marqueling, business manager. “We also have a website, sellbooks.com, so we can search for books on a national level and get the best prices.”

In some cases, students can receive up to 90 percent more on buybacks, she said, compared with campus bookstores, which often are run by outsourced companies accountable to the publishers.

“When school starts up again, we could be getting more than $3,500 to $4,000 a day from students buying books,” Marqueling said, “and because we can give them more for their books, they come to us.”

Still, keeping up-to-date publications on shelves can be problematic as publishers put out updated editions every two to three years, Perry said.

“Students want to make sure they have the latest editions, so it’s harder to find used books if they’re changing every couple of years,” he said. “It didn’t used to be so frequent.”

Still, that’s why campus retail sites are the best outlets to purchase reading materials, said Tom Kline, spokesman for Chicago-based Follett Corp., which runs bookstore operations at IPFW, Ivy Tech Community College and Trine University.

“We don’t set the pricing,” he said. But finding the right edition won’t be a problem for students, Kline said.

“We have them,” he said. “We’re trying to find ways for students to access books in as many different formats (and price points) as possible.”

Like some other outlets, Follett offers used books, rentals, e-books and a new program that gives students a discount if they buy a bundle of books at registration.

“We’ll continue to look at ways,” Kline said. “It’s a very competitive marketplace for course materials.”

Lanni Connelly is owner of the Bookmark store, 3420 N. Anthony Blvd. She said her business has the reputation for having cheaper textbooks and better buyback prices than campus stores.

“We’re trying to help the students,” Connelly said. “The prices have gotten out of control.”

pwyche@jg.net

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