The homepage of the Temple bookstore’s Web site currently features an urgent message headed by the words “Attention Faculty” in the upper-left corner of the page: “Place your request for Spring Semester textbook NOW.”
The sooner the store gets the orders, bodes the flyer, the more books it can stock next semester. Most importantly, the less it’s going to cost you. But the longer professors wait, value on buybacks goes down and the chance of a book not being in stock increases.
Store Manager Jim Hanley eagerly explained the buyback breakdown.
“We buyback books everyday that the store is open,” Hanley said. “Once we know that a book is being used on campus for the upcoming semester, we pay 50 cents on the dollar up to the quantity that we need to cover the students who are registered for that course.”
That 50 percent depends on the timeliness of professors’ orders. If faculty members can get their spring semester textbook requests in mid-fall semester, students have a clearer shot at a half-price refund and used book prices.
Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc. operates the bookstore. If a book is not being used by Temple, but at another school, the bookstore will pay 30 cents on the dollar from the original price, Hanley said.
“If the book is not being used on the Temple campus and it is not being used on any of the campuses that we serve, there is the potential that we will not be able to buyback that book,” Hanley said.
While there is no official deadline for professors’ book orders, Temple’s faculty are asked for their order submissions as soon as possible with a preference on dates before Oct. 30.
But these suggested order dates might not always be feasible for professors. Some do not know what classes they will be teaching until well past the ideal ordering period.
“There’s a variety of factors that impact whether a professor can give us the book orders as early as possible,” Hanley said. “But as far as being a conflict between the bookstore and the faculty, hardly any – if any – exists.”
History professor William Cutler is one such professor who understands the reasoning behind bookstore policy.
“In this case, it makes sense,” Cutler said. “If you order books earlier, then that will give the bookstore the opportunity to buy the book back, and that way they can offer a little more money to the student who brings it in because they know they can sell it. This is a cutthroat business and profit margins are slim.”
Holding up the professors’ end of the policy, however, goes beyond understanding and reasoning.
“Professors are human beings,” Cutler said. “Just like everybody else, they tend to procrastinate. And sometimes you’re not sure what you want to use in the spring semester. I haven’t ordered books for this one [General Education] course that I’m teaching yet because I don’t know how many students are going to be in the class, and I don’t know because freshman students who will be taking Gen-Ed classes are the last in line to register.”
Derrick Johnson, a program clerk for Temple’s first-year writing program, orders the massive number of textbooks needed for the freshman English core directly from the bookstore.
“We just don’t take the deadlines seriously because we can’t,” Johnson said. “They warn us. It’s just impossible to give them an accurate count. The deadlines, to me, are just too soon. The bookstore gives us deadlines so they can figure out how many to buy back, but I wasn’t aware of the policy affecting students.”
Temple Student Government President Juan Galeano and Main Campus Program Board President Brendan Bailes attended a bi-annual conference – initiated by Hanley – in which students and faculty members are encouraged to voice their questions and comments concerning the bookstore’s policies and services.
“We’re trying to get a deadline,” Galeano said. “They haven’t had that deadline before. Trying to implement that will be interesting, but that’s something that we’re going to work towards.”
TSG is also working with academic officers to help enforce more student-friendly stipulations.
“A lot of it is nuances within the business of buying and selling textbooks,” Bailes said. “I think that the main issue is that the bookstore needs to make a profit off their books.”
For some students, the buyback period is another affliction added on to the end-of-semester crunch.
Buyback clerk and senior education major Rayne Hewitt said she endures the wrath of unsatisfied students. Customers have screamed and cursed at her, and one angry customer even shoved a pile of textbooks at her.
“I’ve been yelled at so many times,” she said. “I think a lot of people are under the impression that we’re making money off the books, and we’re not. It’s publisher price.”
Dan Byrne, a senior Asian studies major, is one student who hasn’t had much luck with the policy’s stipulations.
“Anytime I’ve tried to sell anything back to the bookstore, I’ve gotten next to nothing back, or they just wouldn’t take it,” he said.
Other students have had more satisfactory experiences.
“I sold back every one of my books and got $70,” said sophomore design major Monica Zuber.
Caitlyn Conefry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.