Buying textbooks from the campus bookstore: separating fact from fiction

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

photo of textbook stacks in campus bookstoreBuying textbooks can get expensive. Fact!

The campus bookstore can charge whatever they want; prices are higher there than elsewhere.

Fiction. Textbook prices are set by the publishers. Additionally:

  • Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte has a 100% price match guarantee to Amazon and B&*
  • Our bookstore has one of the lowest price margins in the UNC system. (Margins are the percentage added to publishers’ wholesale prices to cover salaries, shipping, etc.)
  • The bookstore offers a comprehensive textbook program that includes formats and processes aimed at affordability. B&N leverages relationships with more than 7,000 publishers to help faculty select from an extensive catalog of affordable textbooks and reference books – rental, digital, and used – to help students save up to 60%.

There’s hardly any difference between the latest edition of a textbook and a previous one, so save money and buy an older version. 

The fact is, this is bad advice. Professors determine the textbooks.

  • Using an older edition textbook may be of little consequence in some subjects, but there are other subjects where edits really matter. Older editions may lack new information, updates and discoveries or have errors that are corrected in the newer edition. Page numbering will often vary, too. These seemingly minor changes could make the difference between a right or wrong answer on a test.
  • It takes expertise to write a textbook and also to teach from one. A campus bookstore understands that when a professor specifies a particular edition, they do so for a reason.
  • The bookstore has a responsibility to make sure that what the professor has specified is exactly what is on the shelves, in quantities sufficient for the entire class. Students can trust that a textbook purchased from the campus bookstore is the edition from which lessons will be taught and assignments are made. Discount booksellers are under no such obligation.
  • Professors, more often than not, desire that students be prepared with required textbooks and supplies from Day One of class. Most faculty are actively committed to textbook affordability, working with the bookstore to determine what format is in students’ best educational and financial interest. (Did you know that faculty were the first to advocate for a Bookstore Advance Program? BAP allows eligible students to receive early access to their financial aid refund in order to purchase textbooks. Chegg and Amazon offer no such program.)

It’s best to wait to buy books that appear farther down on the syllabus until later in the semester. 

Fiction. A few weeks after the drop/add period, unsold/unrented textbooks are sent back to the publishers for credit.

This exchange is a crucial factor in keeping textbook prices lower. Students who wait may find themselves without a book and in danger of falling behind in class. (Note: Professors are notified before unused textbooks are returned. If the instructor wants the bookstore to keep a text on the shelf longer, they will do so.)

There’s no good reason to buy from an on-campus bookstore other than convenience. 

Fiction. Barnes & Noble has made financial and missional commitments to the UNC Charlotte.

Students may not realize that patronizing their campus bookstore for books, supplies, spirit gear, and logoed apparel, supports other students, events and activities. In fact, proceeds from the bookstore:

  • fund scholarships
  • help build and maintain facilities like the Student Union
  • support programs like SOAR, Homecoming, athletics, entertainment programming and more
  • provide on-campus employment to over 100 students a year

Barnes & Noble at UNC Charlotte is a vital part of the campus community. No other bookstore supports the University more.

Business and Auxiliary Services’ bookstore contract manager is Rachel Skipworth. She represents the University’s interest with Barnes & Noble, advocating for what students, faculty and staff need from the bookstore and is the liaison with faculty, campus bookstore and state agencies. Textbook affordability a primary area of focus for her. If you have ideas, questions, concerns about textbooks or other bookstore-related issues, please contact her at or 704‑687‑7683.

B&N at UNC Charlotte bookstore video (2:34 min)


*except third-party “marketplace” dealers