Follett: Friend or foe?

We are infuriated by the discovery of a Follett newsletter sent out to UM professors asking them to encourage students to buy textbooks exclusively from the on-campus bookstore. As if Follett’s textbook prices weren’t extravagant enough, it has the audacity to send out a four-page publication trying to convince professors that the bookstore provides the real “value” students want.

This is an outrage.

Follett’s plea disguised as an argument is nothing more than a desperate attempt to compete against online booksellers and off-campus stores like Book Horizons without having to lower text prices.

It’s understandable that, as a business, Follett wants (and needs) to make money. Yet, it seems unfair that it wants to make such a profit at the expense of tight-budgeted students, particularly when it holds an on-campus monopoly not only on our required textbooks, but also on office supplies and UM gear.

We understand that the price of the new edition of a textbook is expensive, since that’s the publisher’s decision. However, we don’t understand why Follett buys back used books at a meager price and then sells them three times more expensive the following semester. This makes it seem like used book prices are set arbitrarily and simply to charge students more money unnecessarily.

Luckily, professors don’t seem to have been fooled by Follett’s so-called argument. Many are actually apologetic when they realize what the selling price of their course’s required textbook is.

Besides, no professor wants to look like an ogre by asking his or her students to buy the book on campus.

If the bookstore wants to convince us to purchase its texts, it’s going to have to do more than send out a glossy ad in the form of a newsletter. It should lower the prices of its used books. The price of used books should be set in accordance to the condition of the book; tattered books would be cheaper than well-kept ones, unlike the current system where all used copies cost the same.

The bookstore should also create an on-campus bookselling website for UM students, where we could post textbooks to sell at our asking price. Once the book gets sold – to another UM student, relieving us of shipping costs – the bookstore would pocket a small, reasonable fee per book.

Another step forward would be implementing a reward-point system, where a student would earn points for buying textbooks and redeem them for store credit. This would not be as effective as lowering book prices, but it would be a place to start.

If the bookstore doesn’t begin to make changes, it will be condemned to depending on unsuspecting freshmen customers in order to survive.