U.Va. Bookstore Continues Fight Against High Textbook Prices

January 22, 2007 – More than 90 percent of University of Virginia students who obtained textbooks from the U.Va. Bookstore last fall took advantage of one of its innovative programs that provides less expensive alternatives to new textbooks.

"Our textbook rental, guaranteed buyback and 'e-book' options were so successful that we felt it was important to make them available to more students in more classes this spring," said Jonathan Kates, executive director of the U.Va. Bookstore. "The student response has been truly heartening. The participation rate of more than 90 percent in these programs sent a very clear message to us that high textbook prices are a real concern to our students."

According to Kates, the textbook rental program — under which professors commit to using the same texts for two years, or at least for two semesters, giving the books guaranteed value after their first use — allows the U.Va. Bookstore to pass along savings to students at up to 60 percent off of a new text title. The bookstore partnered with faculty to increase by 45 percent the number of classes eligible for textbook rental for the spring semester.

"Students now are much more used to the idea of renting books, so that the response, as strong as it was in the first semester, is even stronger in the second semester," Kates said.

As a matter of course, the bookstore now notifies faculty members when their textbooks are going into a new edition and offers them the option of procuring the older edition whenever available. More faculty members are taking advantage of this option and, as a result, students save an average of 75 percent over new book prices.

"The program is very much dependent upon faculty participation and our ability to work with faculty," Kates said.

For the spring term, U.Va. students will have four times the number of digital, "e-book" titles available than were available for fall semester. Giving students the convenience of downloading their texts onto their computers, e-books cost up to 30 percent less than new printed titles.

In addition, Kates noted that students will find even more used book copies on the shelves this year compared to the spring 2007 semester as the U.Va. Bookstore staff has aggressively increased purchases. The popular "guaranteed buyback" program that further decreases the overall net cost of textbooks will have 30 percent more titles than in the fall. By gaining commitments from professors that certain books will be re-used for classes, the U.Va. Bookstore is able to guarantee students the highest possible price during the end-of-semester textbook buyback.

"Historically, textbook prices have increased at a rate considerably more than the rate of inflation, and we're open to anything we can do to control the high price of textbooks," Kates said.

For additional information, contact Kates at jak7g@virginia.edu or (434) 924-3721.