Andover Bookstore Hopes to Keep Up with Lower Prices in Online Book Market

While some students find the Andover Bookstore convenient, the store’s prices have led other students to seek less-expensive alternatives for their textbooks. Although most of the books at the downtown bookstore sell at retail price, online vendors often sell the same texts at competitive prices. Hana Kim ’11 found her AP Chemistry textbook for over $100 cheaper on than at the Andover Bookstore. Kim originally purchased the book for $292.75 at the Andover Bookstore and later discovered that the book was selling for $155.25 on Amazon. Though Marie Liu ’12 first bought her books at Andover Bookstore, she decided to return some of the books she bought and buy them on Amazon instead. “I had bought $800 worth of books at the Andover Bookstore. [Through Amazon], I saved about 200 dollars,” said Liu. “I’m going to continue [buying books online] during the winter and spring terms.” John Hugo ’98, Manager of the Andover Bookstore, attributed the price differences between the Andover Bookstore and online bookstores such as to additional costs such as rent, employee salaries and shipping costs for books. “A brick-and-mortar store is very different from,” said Hugo. “I think the prices are fair. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary.” Currently, the Andover Bookstore and Phillips Academy have a contract, in which the Andover Bookstore serves as the primary source for selling textbooks to PA students. Textbook sales constitute 25 percent of the bookstore’s revenue, according to Hugo. Ever since Hugo became the manager of the bookstore six years ago, he has been making changes within the store to improve the efficiency of the textbook sales process. Over a two month period, Hugo spent $10,000 on creating a new space solely dedicated to textbooks. The textbook store debuted this fall and is equipped with new computers capable of processing BlueCard transactions. “Six years ago, the student would give us their schedule and we’d pick out all their books for them,” said Hugo. Hugo has also discontinued keeping credit card numbers on file at the bookstore. “[Keeping credit card numbers on file] is a security issue [and staff members] had to type in 20 numbers [every time a student used a credit card on file.] [Also], one out of three cards was declined.” When asked about possibly charging students a fixed fee in order to cover the cost of the textbooks purchased by the school, John Rogers, Dean of Studies, said, “If the Academy were to purchase all books for the students, it would take choice away– some students buy books in other places, borrow or buy used copies. We wouldn’t be able to tailor it to the needs of individuals.” “We’d [also] lose something if we didn’t have a relationship with the Andover Bookstore,” said Rogers. “When you think about the textbook costs, I think you also have to look at the full cost of an education at Phillips Academy for some perspective. Teachers choose the best books for their classes and I don’t think that process should be compromised based on the cost of books,” Rogers continued. “For instance, a teacher shouldn’t choose a book that they think is inferior in order to save fifty dollars. I think it’s lamentable that textbooks are expensive, but I don’t think we should change our approach to selecting the best resources to support our students and our program,” he added. For some students, the convenience of the Andover Bookstore is more important than trying to find the best deal possible. Charles Horner ’12 spent over five hundred dollars at the Andover Bookstore, a price he called “ridiculous.” “There’s really [no other option]. [Buying books off] the Internet takes too long,” said Horner. “Maybe if they can send us the book lists earlier, [it could help.]” However, Rogers felt that releasing book lists earlier would cause other complications. “If we released book lists in August, we would be under pressure to [release the schedules earlier as well]. We would get a lot of complaints about not releasing the schedules [at the same time as the book lists.] Since schedules need to be adjusted right up until, and even after, classes start, releasing schedules too early would be problematic,” said Rogers. “[The Andover Bookstore] is independent [from Phillips Academy]. We’re [one] option for the students,” said Hugo. Unlike Andover, other schools often give little or no choice to students regarding textbooks. “Other schools include [book costs] in its tuition,” said Hugo. The Andover Bookstore first became a book vendor in 1809. Back then, “[the Andover Bookstore was] located on the first floor of The Andover Theological Seminary,” according to the Andover Bookstore website.