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Textbook sales remain strong in USF area

USF students are still hitting the books — or at least buying them — despite nationwide trends to the contrary.

Though many college textbook publishers have said they’ve seen dwindling sales in The Chronicle of Higher Education — including the University of North Carolina Press’ 17 percent decline since 2004 — these slumping sales figures at the publishing level haven’t carried over to Tampa textbook sales.

USF Bookstore General Manager Grace McQueen said the Bookstore’s sales haven’t seen a significant decline. A representative from Gray’s College Bookstore said sales have remained steady there, too.

The Bookstore’s ability to buck the trend is largely due to its adoption of new strategies to make book-buying more convenient for on-the-go students.

“We have actually seen an increase in online textbook reservations this year,” McQueen said.

The Bookstore has been marketing online textbook reservations — specifically targeting incoming freshmen — as an easy way to get textbooks, McQueen said.

The marketing worked for one freshman student who purchased all of her textbooks this semester at the Bookstore.

“I just reserved all the books the Bookstore recommended for me,” said Frances Steele, who is majoring in international studies. “It was easier, and I didn’t really know where else to get them.”

Other factors keeping sales steady include the Bookstore Advanced Purchase Program, which allows students receiving financial aid and scholarships to spend their award money on books before the University has disbursed their funds.

“It makes it simple for scholarship and financial aid recipients to get their textbooks, and then they don’t have to spend money out of pocket to get their books,” McQueen said.

The return policy at the Bookstore, which allows students to receive a full refund for unopened books during the first week of classes, is also used to keep customers coming back and makes using the Bookstore as convenient as possible, McQueen said.

Sales at Gray’s are also holding steady, said Operational Manager Jim Lanier, though he found it  hard to separate textbook sales from the rest of the products they sell in-store and online.

The illegal copying of textbooks is associated with decreasing sales at textbook companies, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, but textbook sales at USF remain largely unaffected.

“I haven’t heard of any specific problems with piracy, at least nothing to cause us any concern,” McQueen said.

Jared Kraminsky, a recent grad who majored in biomedical sciences, knows some people who pirated textbooks or bought them online, but he purchased all of his books at Gray’s.

“It’s just easier than ordering online and having to wait for them to be delivered,” he said.

Though the Bookstore does have competition in the area and online, it is focusing on serving customers, McQueen said.

“We work hard to provide our customers with the right books and to keep everything in stock for them,” she said. “We try to run a good operation and build loyalty with the customers to keep them coming back.”