December 16, 1997

Book buyback brings extra cash to students, school

Jason L. Ables
Staff writer

You can make students read, but that does not mean you can make them keep the books.

Witness, it is time for the SF State book buyback, that once-a-semester chance for students to bid adieu to the tomes of general education and Segment III courses, and in return say hello to some cash.

It began last week and by the time it ends on Friday, Franciscan Shops textbook manager Dale Chung said he expects to see some 30,000 books find their way back to the bookstore.

For Angel Thayer, a senior in art history, the buyback was a chance for her to get rid of a collection of short stories she said were "of non-interest."

"I guess I could keep it, but I know I probably would not ever read it again," Thayer said.

Last year, in an effort to make the operation smoother and get the money to students like Thayer quicker, the bookstore started giving cash refunds on the spot as students turned in their books. Before, students had to get a voucher at the buyback counter, then go inside the bookstore and get their money from a cashier.

As far as how much money is actually offered for each book, Chung explained that it all depends on the market.

"It is basically, if we are using the book, we will give (a student) half of the (initial) price, and actually it could be more or less," he said.

If the price of a book has gone up since the student bought it, they get half of the new price -- more money. But unfortunately, the reverse is true too. If the price on a particular book has dropped since it was originally bought, a student could end up getting less money. Franciscan Shops sells the books to a national used book buyer, which sets the pricing.

"Their prices are competitive in terms of the other used book companies, and (that price) is based on supply and demand across the country," Chung said.

The idea of re-selling textbooks is a fairly old one. According to Chung, a 15-year veteran of the college textbook business, there was at least one company dealing in used textbooks back at the turn of the century.

Today, there are two kinds of books being sought from students, those that professors say SF State students will need next semester, and those that are needed by students at other schools. The books that are staying here go directly back onto the shelves. The others are boxed and shipped out. To handle all those thousands of books requires a small army of over 30 people dedicated to the buyback.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, grad students tend to keep their books more than other students because "they actually use their books in the future as references," said Chung.

The majority of the books usually returned are the ones that students would use in the lower division classes.

Grant Swanson, a junior majoring in kinesiology who returned some of his books last week, could see both sides of the street.

"I kept a couple of books I thought might help me in the future as references, but most of them I sell back for the money," he said.

By returning his books last week, Swanson managed to beat a line that is expected to form and get longer as this week draws to a close.

The buyback counter is located just outside the bookstore in the Cesar Chavez Student Center, and is open during regular bookstore hours, from 7:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday and until 5 p.m. Friday.