Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bookstore strives to meet student needs

The Whitman College Bookstore sees a rush of students  buying textbooks at the beginning of each semester, and while those transactions are not representative of shopping habits throughout the year, textbook costs remain a major point of concern for students.

“On a daily basis, most of the transactions are pretty small,” said senior Heather Smith, one of the student managers.

Even with these smaller purchases, the bookstore strives to keep prices low.   A recent pricing change on a popular item, sweatshirts, has had a noticeable effect on sales, according to senior Wing Lam, another student manager.

“People used to always just buy, like, the traditional ‘Whitman College’ ones, but now people are buying more of the other ones because of greater variety and better cost,” Lam said.

However, students are most concerned with the price of textbooks. Bookstore employee and junior Lesli Meekins says it can be difficult for the bookstore to keep prices low.

“There’s not really that many strategies out there when you’re stuck with a high price tag from publishers,” Meekins said.

Even so, Acquisitions Specialist Janice King does not consider that price tag fixed.

“Janice, our textbook buyer, is always talking to the publishers, trying to get a lower rate,” Meekins said.

If she finds out that some publisher doesn’t end up giving the bookstore the lower rate they had previously agreed upon, “she calls them up and she’s ‘mama bear;’ she’s trying to keep prices low,” Meekins said.

Despite King’s efforts, the price of textbooks can be expensive for students; this is one of the reasons why the “buyback” policy exists.

“Buyback is a good way for students to recover some of the expense of textbooks.  If a book is going to be used by a professor for the next semester, the bookstore will pay the student half of the initial cost, and we give cash,” King wrote in an email.

Meekins doesn’t thins students realize how much work goes into lowering prices.

“I think one of the most frustrating things about it is when everybody is coming in to buy textbooks and people mutter, ‘oh my gosh, they’re ripping us off,'” said Meekins.

Although junior Cassandra Smith buys most of her books online, she doesn’t think the bookstore is ripping anyone off.

“I feel like [there would be higher prices] in any store setting because they do have to make a profit, whereas if I buy them online it’s from people who just want to get rid of the books most of the time,” Smith said.

The bookstore is self-sustaining, meaning its income funds the staff wages and benefits, student wages, services and the purchase of supplies and inventory.

“Any profits earned by the bookstore are allocated to Whitman College’s general fund and used to support employee salaries/benefits, faculty research, student scholarships, financial aid awards, etc.,” said King.

Even if students don’t always realize it, the bookstore staff constantly tries to meet their needs.

The bookstore offers a 20 percent discount on non-textbooks to the Whitman community and has been featuring products made by students, faculty and community members sold on consignment.

“We are proud to be one of the last independent college bookstores in the Pacific Northwest and to contribute to a sustainable local economy,” said King.  “We are the students’ bookstore and that is always foremost in our decisions.”

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