Back to Class: The Straight Facts about Your College Bookstore

College stores exist to support the academic missions of their schools

Aug 07, 2014, 11:11 ET from National Association of College Stores

OBERLIN, Ohio, Aug. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There are many misconceptions circulating today about college course materials and the campus bookstore:  It's too expensive to buy or rent your books there… students pay $1,200 annually for their textbooks… you'll pay full price at the store no matter what… digital resources aren't available… buying or renting from an online retailer is easier and cheaper.

By sorting fact from fiction, college students going back to class this fall can shop smart and focus their time and energy on what matters most – getting the exact course materials they need for their classes at the best possible price and, most importantly, saving time,  hassles and money as they begin or continue their academic pursuits.

Here are the facts:

FACT: Spending on required course materials averaged $638 for students during the 2013-14 academic year, according to the Student Watch™ Spring 2014 survey by OnCampus Research[1] which has researched the college market for more than 10 years. Many organizations putting out information annually about the average cost of textbooks incorrectly use $1,200 as the actual average. In reality, the $1,200 includes such residuals as supplies, equipment, software, hardware, lab fees and course fees, not course materials alone.

It's important to note that student spending on course materials has been flat to declining in the last five years, according to the Student Watch™ Fall 2013 survey, and reflected in the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) reports on school estimates for books and supplies.[2]

FACT: College stores use a variety of resources to offer the best price possible to students. Students can quickly and accurately find all their course material needs through their college store, and at reasonable prices. In addition, approximately 400 stores across the U.S. and Canada utilize price comparison software that all students can take advantage of when buying new or used books. In this case, course materials are highly competitively priced.

Price comparison technology enables stores to offer lower priced options from not only the store but also several online sellers, including Amazon and others. These tools help students make smart choices. It's interesting to note that when students use these tools, 80% of the time they end up acquiring their books from the college store as a trusted and reliable source offering a competitive price, says San Francisco-based Verba Software, a service provider of textbook price comparison tools.

FACT: Buying course materials online is not always safe and convenient. Students should be cautious when purchasing course materials from unknown sources, paying close attention to the descriptions of the textbook to ensure it's the correct material and understand the return policy and terms of use or rental rules of the vendor. A quick review of the Better Business Bureau or similar sites is a smart move. Boastful savings claims from online sellers can easily lead to buying books that are old editions or versions not specific to what the faculty requires, or even international editions that will not meet students' needs. In these cases, students have to spend more money and time to rectify the problem. The local campus store can guarantee the correct title and edition chosen by the instructor.

FACT: About 85% of college stores offer textbook rental options to save students money, says OnCampus Research. Most offer digital course content when it's available as well – dramatically expanding the number of format and price choices for students to fit their learning style and needs.

College stores also work with faculty to develop custom content that is cost effective for students so they only pay for the academic information they need. Again, the aim is to save students money while helping to ensure their academic success.

FACT: A college store's mission is to provide the highest level of service to students and faculty by responding to their needs and interests. Today's college bookstores work closely with faculty providing assistance during adoptions, procuring course materials in a variety of formats and pricing options, ensuring all course materials are available for all students, and providing students with the accurate information they need to make their course material purchase decisions.

So as students are bombarded this fall with an overwhelming amount of alternative options and inaccurate information about the best ways to buy or rent textbooks, their college store stands ready to help.

For additional facts about college stores and the collegiate retail industry, visit the National Association of College Stores (NACS) website or call 800-622-7498, ext. 2351.

Coming next week: Digital course material demand growing, still trails printed textbooks


Headquartered in Oberlin, Ohio, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) is the professional trade association representing the $10 billion collegiate retailing industry. NACS represents nearly 3,000 collegiate retailers and approximately 1,000 associate members who supply books and other products to college stores. NACS member stores serve America's college students while supporting the academic missions of higher education institutions everywhere. Additional information on NACS can be found online at


OnCampus Research is a division of indiCo LLC, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores. OnCampus Research has been providing insights and knowledge about the college market for more than 10 years. Additional information can be found at

[1] OnCampus Research surveys approximately 14,000 students at 20 college and university campuses nationwide, and received 11,000 responses.

[2] Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2013-14; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2012-13; and 12-Month Enrollment 2012-13: First Look (Provisional Data); National Center for Education Statistics

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SOURCE National Association of College Stores