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Getting more bucks from your books

It’s no secret university students often find themselves strapped for cash at the end of a semester and that many look to selling their used textbooks back to university bookstores to help alleviate some of the pecuniary stress. It’s also no secret some students may decide not to do business with the University Bookstore, frustrated by the small amount of money they receive for textbooks that they have used for only one semester. As a result, Student Government representative Marvin Tador presented a proposal to the faculty senate Wednesday in hopes of improving the USF Tampa Bookstore’s buyback situation by prompting USF faculty members to report the books they are using earlier. According to an SG Executive Proposal, the Bookstore will not buy used textbooks on “mere speculation,” but will pay up to 50 percent of the full retail price if they know the textbook will be used in upcoming semesters. “Previous proposals told the faculty what to do to fix the problem,” Tador said. “This one asks them to help us come to a solution.” The Bookstore relies on information from each department concerning which courses are going to be taught, which professors are teaching them, what books are going to be used and how many are needed, said Grace McQueen, the Bookstore’s general manager. It is at the end of each semester that students sell the most books. According to McQueen, the Bookstore sets up kiosks around campus and display texts that will fetch the full 50 percent to help facilitate the buyback rush. According to Tador, if more faculty members report their textbook selections before the end of the semester, the benefits for students could be more than monetary. Students would be more likely to sell books back if they stood to make more money, he said. This would boost the overall inventory of the Bookstore, making it less likely that students would find racks lacking the texts they need later. However, many faculty members point out that submitting requests that early is not always feasible. Often, faculty members don’t know what classes they are teaching, what text they are going to use or how many students will need the books, said mathematics professor Gregory McColm. The nature of the textbook industry also limits the effectiveness of buyback campaigns, as new editions of texts come out nearly annually. McColm said that both students and faculty are affected when the Bookstore doesn’t have enough inventory, but said there was little faculty members could do to help remedy the problem. “Sometimes the Bookstore doesn’t know the enrollment,” he said. “No one really does until a week after class starts.” According to McQueen, the Bookstore is contractually obligated to supply the number of books that the departments request. McQueen said she has been actively involved in trying to help faculty report their books since she became general manager of the Bookstore in 2000. “We print out of our textbook system all the information that we had from summer last year or from fall last year,” she said. “We take those forms to the department contact person, he or she distributes them to the faculty and says, ‘This is what you ordered for this semester last year.’ If they want the same book, they simply have to check a box on the form and send the form back to us.” During the fall and spring semesters of 2006 alone, the Bookstore paid students $1,148,615 for their textbooks. “That was just one third of faculty (reporting the books they needed),” McQueen said. “Imagine how much it would have been if they all had.”