SDSU book prices prove competitive

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

In a four-part series beginning this week, the Collegian will take an in-depth look at the costs and benefits of an education at SDSU. We will try to provide insight to answer the question: “Am I getting my money’s worth?”

Take a walk past the University Bookstore at the beginning of any semester, and you will be sure to see a few familiar sights: infinitely long lines, baskets full of textbooks, and a sea of grumbling students.

“Every year it seems to get worse,” Hannah Koep, a sophomore pre-vet major from Lakefield, Minn, said. “It just seems to me that the price I pay for textbooks is way higher than it should be.”

This semester, Koep thought she would not have to spend much at the bookstore because she only needed three books.

She ended up spending $180.

“The worst part about that is I can buy a book for $90 or whatever, and then, when I go to sell it back, it’s not being used again next year, or I don’t get hardly any thing back for it,” she said.

Clint Gehrke, a junior Animal Science major from Luverne, Minn., fared even worse.

Gehrke had the same number of books on his list as Koep did, but paid nearly $70 more.

“Three books for $250,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Both Koep and Gehrke said they thought they were overcharged by the bookstore.

“They must just jack the cost up to make a profit,” Koep said.

In all reality, the book store does tack a premium on to textbooks.

However, SDSU students may not be as bad off as they think.

The New St. Martin’s Handbook by Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors, a text required for students who take freshman composition at SDSU, carries a retail list price of $35.80 new.

Students who buy the Handbook at SDSU’s Bookstore pay $43.75 for a new one, a mark-up of nearly $8, before taxes.

However, the price is higher at other area schools.

The University of South Dakota’s bookstore tacks on a staggering $14.20 to the Handbook’s list price.

Augustana, in Sioux Falls, echoes that mark-up, also charging an even $50 for the book.

SDSU also offers the best deal on used Handbooks when compared to other area universities.

A used Handbook here runs $32.85. USD charges $37.50, Dakota State University lists it at $38.25, and Augustana students pay an even $40.

SDSU Bookstore Director Gary Burdick said he is not surprised by the news that his store’s texts are less expensive than at other area universities.

“It’s not surprising at all,” he said. “We at SDSU have consistently operated on a lower margin than stores across the country that are of comparable size.”

Burdick said individual bookstores determine mark-ups needed to keep the store open.

Based on the 2002 College Store Industry Report, SDSU ranks first in its class of 92 university bookstores for lowest textbook mark-up and total gross mark-up, Burdock said.

The report says SDSU marks textbooks up an average of 21.4 percent and has a 23.8 percent total gross mark-up of all bookstore products. The median total gross margin in SDSU’s 92-school category is 26.3 percent.

Nevertheless, text books still end up costing students a sizable chunk of their personal budgets.

Some students find alternative sources for text books.

“I’ll ask around and go through my friends to see if they have books that I need,” Koep said. “That way, they get paid more for their book, and I don’t have to pay as much. It works out perfect that way.”

Other students search the Internet for book bargains.

While Web alternatives do exist, some of them are not much better than the original means.

Barnes and Noble Bookstores Online sells a new copy of the Handbook for $46.75, three dollars more than SDSU.

Yahoo does not fare any better, listing it for the same price.

Amazon, a favorite site of bargain hunters, offers nothing near a bargain on a new Handbook. It runs $49.70. is the book alternative best, posting a price less than retail at $34.37.

Used Handbooks tighten up significantly the price spread among alternatives.

Barnes and Noble lists a used handbook at $35.10, Yahoo at $31.24 and Amazon at $27.34. triumphs again, however, selling a used Handbook for just over $23.

No matter how students get them or how much they cost, buying books remains a daunting, yet required, purchase.

“It’s no fun buying them,” Gehrke said. “But you still have to do it.”

#1.887622:188247280.jpg:book chart.jpg::#1.887621:2743096544.jpg:bookstore.jpg:At the beginning of a semester, walking past the bookstore proves challenging because of long lines, both inside and outside the store. Now, students can pass by freely? until next semester. :