Textbook ordering examined

By Matt Gronlund

A growing number of professors placing textbook orders at bookstores other than the traditional campus ones could cause some alarm.

The University Bookstore and the Village Commons Bookstore (VCB) traditionally have been the only two places where students could buy their textbooks, but professors are placing textbook orders at other DeKalb area bookstores.

David Sytsma, the owner of the Junction Book Room, 822 W. Lincoln Hwy., and other local bookstore merchants theorized why some professors are ordering books at their stores rather than the two that are normally utilized.

One local merchant said professors are tired of the bookstores running out of the specific books they order. “We will order the amount they ask for. The other stores order only a percentage (of a requested order),” he said.

Students, however, should remember they only can buy new books at these stores. Mitch Kielb, manager of the University Bookstore, located in the Holmes Student Center, said, “If we have an exclusive (book order), we could order the exact amount. It’s a lot tougher to offer them used and to compete in an open market.”

Sytsma also offered his reasons for the trend toward his store and others like it.

“We work a lot more closely with the faculty and we don’t cut orders. The difference is mostly service and an alternative,” he said.

However, traditional campus bookstores should not be overly concerned about this trend. Textbook sales are only a small part of these other bookstore sales.

Another local merchant said, “99.9 percent (of the professors) order from the the VCB or the University Bookstore. It’s negligible.”

Sytsma also said that textbooks are a very small part of the stores’ services, adding that his store is interested in courses that use books that overlap with the type of books the store currently sells.

Robert Wilson, associate English professor, said he recently switched to ordering from the traditional bookstores for several reasons.

“I like the efficiency and attention they give my orders,” he said.

Wilson said he did not want to comment on any problems he’s had or why he no longer places orders at the VCB or University Bookstore.

One concern students might have when they buy books at the non-traditional stores is that they are unable to sell back their books at the end of the semester.

“It’s inconvenient for students; it forces students to buy new books,” Kielb said.

Wilson said he would like to see students get better return value. “I don’t want to be perceived as criticizing the bookstores, I don’t know what their profit margins or return policy is,” he said.

However, the non-traditional bookstores do not see it as a big problem.

Local merchants said it is not a problem that students cannot sell back their books because most students keep their books anyway.

But if the problem gets any bigger, there is always the possibility to alter store policy.

“It’s a possibility (offering a book buy back). If there is a demand, we’ll look into it,” Sytsma said.

He said students always can sell back their books at the other bookstores.