A series of initiatives by the University Bookstore management team at Grand Valley has saved students nearly $1.4 million this past academic year. UBS continues to reduce the price of textbooks for students by maintaining lower than average operating margins, increasing the availability of used books, and instituting even more cost saving initiatives.
“In the past, when publishers released new book editions we would simply order these based on faculty requests,” said Jerrod Nickels, UBS manager. “Now, with more frequent new editions being pushed by publishers every 12-24 months, we work closely with faculty to determine if the changes are substantial.” As an example, UBS worked with a management professor to use an existing edition of a textbook that they sell for $19.95, while the new edition would have sold for $169.95, providing a $150 savings for students.
UBS also offers the highest possible buy-back prices for books at the end of each semester. For books being reused in the coming semester, they pay 50 percent of the new price whether the student originally purchased the book new or used. Though current students are the primary source for most of the used book inventory, UBS also purchases used books from a number of textbook wholesalers, other college bookstores and online retailers. “This aggressive approach to obtaining used books helps to insure that more than 50 percent of the textbooks that we sell are available as used books, while the national average for college stores around the country is about 30 percent,” said Nickels.
Starting in the fall 2012 semester, UBS will offer students a new pricing comparison tool. Hosted on the bookstore’s website, the software will allow students to compare UBS prices with other online vendors. Nickels said that students will be able to purchase or rent books from any number of sites using a single shopping cart, and any sales directed to other vendors will result in a commission for UBS which will, in turn, be used to maintain lower pricing for students at Grand Valley.
Electronic books and textbook rental initiatives have not produced the savings once hoped for. During the past four years electronic book sales have continued to decline as publisher prices have increased. Likewise, expected textbook rental savings are often offset by the cost of implementing and managing the program. Instead UBS developed a more sustainable model called Guaranteed Buy-back. At the beginning of each semester, they list both the purchase price and the guaranteed buy-back price for a textbook, allowing students to easily calculate the net cost of ownership. Nearly 100 titles were included in Grand Valley’s program during the fall 2011 semester, with plans to expand in the coming academic year.