Senior initiates proposal for textbook company on campus
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 21:12
A proposal from senior Alec Howard that the university allow Bucks4Books, a company that buys back and sells used textbooks, to operate on campus, is being met with initial rejection because of a contractual agreement between the university and the Tufts University Bookstore that prohibits competing textbook sales on the Hill.
Howard first learned about Bucks4Books while working at SimpleTuition, a company that allows students to compare private student loans.
“I talked with people there, and they got me in touch with [Christopher Howard, the CEO of] Bucks4Books,” he said. “[Buck4Books] is an online company that essentially looks to acquire inventory.”
The goal of the company, Howard said, is to increase options for student textbook buyback and boost the amount of money students make selling their books. He estimated that the company buys back over one million textbooks a year.
Howard believes bringing Bucks4Books to campus would make it easier for students to sell their books at times when the bookstore might not take them.
“[The campus bookstore] buys back with the intent of selling them next semester, but classes are usually offered every other semester,” he said.
Howard, who plans to build a student coalition to bring Bucks4Books to campus, spoke to the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate at its meeting last Sunday in hopes of developing support from the Senate. He argued that increasing competition in the used−textbook market on campus will give students more control over how much money they receive from selling them.
“It makes a lot of sense for the school,” he said, adding that Bucks4Books would employ Tufts students and pay the Office for Campus Life to rent space on campus.
A major roadblock to the proposal, according to several TCU senators, is that the company’s aim to provide cheaper textbooks may violate the bookstore’s contract with the university that prevents textbook sales competition on campus.
“I think if it were to happen it would be very helpful for the students,” Senate Services Committee Chair Christie Maciejewski, a junior, said. Maciejewski, however, said the proposal conflicts with the bookstore’s non−competition clause.
“My understanding of [the non−competition clause] is that there is no one that can deal with textbooks within a ten−block radius of the Barnes and Noble bookstore,” she said.
Bookstore Manager Carolyn LaQuaglia explained that a contract between the university and the Barnes and Noble−owned bookstore states that the store must be the exclusive retailer of textbooks on campus, as well as other school merchandise.
“We’re contracted out for a number of services ... We are the exclusive seller on campus at Tufts for any course−related material including textbooks, school supplies [and] Tufts merchandise,” LaQuaglia said, though she noted there are some exceptions.
“There are loopholes in the contract,” LaQuaglia added, citing as an example clubs or organizations that sell team merchandise for fundraisers.
Maciejewski said that the current contract between the university and Barnes and Noble expires on June 30, 2014, at which point negotiations will be possible, but that until then there is no place for Bucks4Books on campus. She said she has encouraged Howard to continue speaking with LaQuaglia and Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos, as well as submit a resolution to the Senate.
LaQuaglia said that per the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the university must post the necessary materials for each class so that students have options in finding textbooks. She noted that the bookstore currently does this on their website.
“It protects the university to keep money coming to them, because [bookstore sales] provide funds for the faculty and student programs on campus,” she said.
Editor's Note: The original version of this article stated that Christie Maciejewski is the TCU Treasurer. She is the Senate Services Committee chair. The current version reflects this change.