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FAQ

Textbook FAQ's

Textbook Costs

Textbook General

Textbook Rentals

Faculty and Textbooks

Faculty and Textbook Adoptions

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Textbook Costs

Why are books so expensive?

There are a number of factors that determine a book's price:

  • The publisher costs, such as printing, royalties, permissions and distribution. The price of new printed textbooks is up more than 7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 82% between 2002 and 2012, as calculated by the Government Accountability Office.
  • The book's availability - only so many books are published or in circulation.
  • Age of the book - newer editions are more expensive than older ones.
  • The time the book is ordered - buying a book at the height of the season or last minute adds to the book's expense.

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What does the University Store do to make textbook options cheaper for students?

The University Store is committed to offering more affordable textbook options, while serving our faculty's needs, and more importantly, our student's needs for classroom success. Our latest efforts to reduce costs include:

  • Cutting our margins to be more competitive.
  • Offering cheaper alternatives to textbooks, such as online editions.
  • Working with faculty to get their book orders in early to take advantage of lower pricing.
  • Communicating with faculty in the textbook adoption process to allow for an optimal buyback price.
  • Self-managing our rental program rather than using a third party to offer more pricing flexibility.
  • Increasing the quantities as well as easing up on the condition of the books we purchase back from our students.

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Why am I sometimes offered such a low price when I sell my books back at Buyback?

Typically, we offer up to 50% of the original book price of the ending term. However, the price offered to buy back a book is determined by:

  • Condition of the book. For example, we don't accept water-damaged books or those missing pages.
  • Whether the faculty will use the book for the next quarter. If yes, we can offer a higher buy back price because the book stays on campus. If not, a national used book company we work with determines the price, which is considerably lower.

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What can students do to save money on textbooks?

Know that if you buy your book at the University Store, your money goes back into supporting the University. The same isn't true of purchasing a book on Amazon or at other retailers. Also, the more books bought at the University store means more books are likely to be bought back and available for the next student. It's a pay it forward scenario. Other ways to save:

  • Ask your professors to make their material lists available early.
  • Rent rather than buy and save up to 60%. The University Store currently offers more than 800 titles to rent, some renting at half of retail value.
  • Shop early, buy pre-owned and save up to 25%. Sell used textbooks back in good condition and get up to 40% of the book price back.
  • Opt for eBooks and save up to 60%. Many textbooks are available in this format, and you can buy or rent them in this cheaper format.
  • Ask your professor if he or she has put a copy on reserve in the campus library, and if not, whether a previous edition of the book will suffice.

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Textbook General

What is the University Store's Return Policy?

You may return a book you don’t need up until the Friday of the first week of school for most major terms (differs for Summer term), for a full refund provided it’s in the same condition as you purchased it in. A refund will be issued after this date up until the Wednesday of the 2nd week of school for most major terms (differs for Summers term) for a full refund if you drop the class and provide proof of drop. No returns will be accepted after a given date. Credit is given according to the initial method of payment.

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How does the "Textbook Buyback" program work?

Buying textbooks back from students helps us to keep a robust selection of used books in stock, and enables us to pay students up to 50% of a book’s price of the condition you originally purchased it in. The University Store purchases back a limited quantity at Buyback. Textbook Buyback runs usually the last week of the term, and the first week of the term. See store site for more details.

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Do I need to buy all book titles listed for my courses?

Not necessarily. Check the tags on the textbook shelves to distinguish between titles that are required and those that are listed as optional. A careful review of the course syllabus can also help you determine the extent of the reading assigned or when a book will be used during the course. Some syllabi are available online prior to the first class.

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Why is ordering my textbooks from an online retailer risky?

We generally advise against using online and other non-university affiliated sources for several reasons. First, your shipment could be delayed, which could cause you to fall behind as the quarter begins. Second, you can't be sure until your shipment arrives that the textbooks you've purchased online are the exact editions specified by your instructors. Finally, the "lower" price you might pay online doesn't factor in the added costs of sales tax, shipping and handling, or the hassle of returning a book purchased online. Additionally, funds collected remain on-campus to support Cal Poly.

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Why should I buy my books at the University Store?

The answer is simple - to support Cal Poly. Unlike privately-owned bookstores, the University Store is owned and operated by Cal Poly Corporation. Meaning, all of the monies spent at the University Store stay at the university rather than into an individual's private bank account or to an out-of-state company. The University Store funds many worthwhile Cal Poly programs and services.

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Textbook Rentals

How long is the rental period and what are the terms?

Books are rented for one quarter's use. Rental books are due the last day of Final Exams for the quarter in which they were rented. Books must be returned complete and in salable condition — the spine of the book is intact; there is no damage to the book other than routine highlighting; all components [CDs etc.] must be present. You will be charged the full replacement value for titles not returned by the due date. This replacement cost will be in addition to the rental fee paid when the book was rented and is non-refundable. We cannot accept late returns as our agreement with our textbook wholesale partners require us to return the books immediately at the end of the quarter. Normal tax rates will apply to rental transactions.

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How do I know which books are available for rental?

Books available for rent will have a rental price on the course shelf tag on the textbook sales floor and on the University Store Textbook Comparison tool. If only new and used prices are shown, the book is not available for rent.

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How are rental fees determined? Are rented textbooks cheaper than used books?

For in-store rentals, the rental price can save you UP TO 50% of the New/Used price of the book. You should compare the used and rental prices carefully before purchasing.

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What do I need to rent my textbooks?

You must be a Cal Poly student with no overdue statuses for prior term rentals and present your Student ID card at the time of checkout at the cash register.

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What if I don't return the rented textbook in the same condition as when I rented it?

A rented textbook should be returned in reusable/saleable condition so it can be rented to another student. Highlighting and marking within the book are only acceptable to a limited extent. You are responsible for loss from any cause, including theft, lost components, and damage (e.g. water/coffee damage, spine damage, pages falling out, etc.). If you return the rented textbook in unacceptable condition, you will be charged the full price of the book in the condition you rented it originally.

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Are rental textbooks eligible for refunds?

Rental textbooks are eligible for refunds under the same terms and conditions as books that are purchased. See Refunds & Return policy.

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Where do I return my rental books?

Rental books can be returned at the University Store during textbook buyback and rental return periods.

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What if I want to purchase my rental book?

You would need to bring your rental book in for a refund and make a separate purchase.

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Will I get the rental fee back once I return the rented textbook at the end of the rental period?

No, the rental fee is a non-refundable fee paid to rent and use the textbook for the duration of the rental period.

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Faculty and Textbooks

Why does the store set such early deadlines for textbook adoption forms?

It takes time to process the large volume of textbook adoption forms for every course Cal Poly offers. There are all kinds of variables that may need to be pinned down in processing each book adoption request, like: resolving problems with requests and communicating back to faculty; preparing lists for used book wholesalers; seeking out availability and best prices among multiple distributors; ascertaining when new editions will be available; finding out whether textbooks bundled with other components can be obtained separately; and reviewing enrollment figures and sales histories to help determine how many copies to buy. There are many other smaller tasks as well to get all of the books in and ready in time for class.

We also need the adoption forms in order to know which used books to buy back from our students. In addition, because thousands of college bookstores order books within the same period, wholesalers and publishers need time to process and ship the flood of orders.

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If there is so much demand for used books, why doesn't the University Store buy back all copies students bring in?

There are many reasons why a book might not be bought back. Possibly the book is not being used anywhere next quarter. The book may be part of a required bundle of items that cannot be sold separately. The copy may be in poor condition. The store and/or wholesaler may have reached the needed amount; the number of copies we buy back is based on anticipated enrollment for the next quarter. We cannot afford to buy more copies than we expect to sell.

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I hear students complaining they receive little for their used books. How does the store determine what to pay?

The value of a used book depends a great deal on whether or not that particular book is going to be used on this campus next quarter. The University Store is able to pay more for books that will stay on this campus, up to 50% of the retail price of the condition they purchased it in. If the book is not going to be assigned here next quarter, however, the store will check with wholesale book companies to find out if they are buying the book. Wholesalers typically pay less because they have to add the costs of shipping and other normal business expenses to the resale prices. Unless a textbook adoption form has been submitted to the store, we do not know whether a book will be used again next quarter. The store cannot afford to buy back books on speculation. In the absence of an adoption form, students receive only the lower wholesaler buyback rate, possibly even nothing if there is no demand elsewhere for the book.

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Why doesn't the store sell textbooks at cost?

The store must add a markup to the cost of all merchandise, including both used and new textbooks, to cover our operating expenses, such as staff wages and benefits; mortgage or rent payments; freight; utilities, insurance and taxes; checkout systems; shelving; security; cleaning and repairs; supplies; and other costs. The University Store is not a subsidized entity. In addition, the store contributes funds back to the campus community.

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What questions should I ask a publisher's representative to get at the key issues related to the price of a textbook?

There are several questions to ask when deciding which textbook to adopt:

  • How much will this book cost my students? Remember, though, that when asked for the price of the text, publisher's sales representatives frequently quote the cost of the textbook to the University Store – that is, the net cost. The net cost does not include the University Store's markup, which reflects operational expenses and other costs of doing business. However, if you know the net cost we will be happy to estimate the retail price your students will pay.
  • Is the textbook available by itself or sold only as part of a bundle? What online resources are available to students with the purchase of the text, and are they available to anyone, or only to students who buy a new copy?
  • When is the next edition going to be released?

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Faculty and Textbook Adoptions

I've just been assigned to teach a course/section. Who do I contact to get my books ordered?

After you've been assigned a course/section, contact the Courseware department at the University Store to order your books for the upcoming term. You can reach the department via email or phone at 805-756-1711. Let the department know the following information if you have it handy:

  • ISBN of the book (if you don't have that, please let us know Author/Title & edition)
  • If the book is Required, Recommended, Optional, etc.

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What should I consider when selecting a book for my students to use in the classroom?

The top two concerns students have regarding books are:

  • The textbook is too expensive
  • We didn't even use the book in class

If you only require the book, and not the items that come in the bundle, just adopt the ISBN of the book alone. If you do require other components in the bundle, such as the technology or workbook, adopt the bundle. Work with both your publisher representative and the Courseware department and see what will be the best selection in your classroom.

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I only want selected chapters of a book, what should I do?

Contact your publisher representative and ask them to customize the book you would like to use with only the selected chapters you want. They will check to see if that request is possible and provide you with a customized ISBN which you will provide to the Courseware department for ordering.

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I have my own handouts that I would like to be reproduced and used in the classroom. What should I do?

Contact the courseware department and inform them that you would like to take this route. Each course pack, as they are called, are different and will require different steps based on the production of the handouts. They will walk you through the steps such as gathering the resources, collecting permissions and providing you with cost information.

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Why is it important to provide all textbook information to the store?

We are the central hub between faculty and students when it comes to courseware information. Our constant communication between faculty allows us to pass the right information along to our students so they can choose to purchase the courseware material from us or elsewhere.

We provide all this information through our website as well as frequently updating Plan A Student Schedule (PASS) so students can see the textbooks required at the time of registering for classes.

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Why do you ask for textbook adoptions/requests so far in advance?

The procedure for course book ordering is one requiring literally hundreds of hours of data entry, research, follow-up, and physical processing. As well, there are a variety of things that can happen to cause problems with getting the course books here to the store. The sooner the request is submitted, the better chance we have to rectify any problems that arise before classes begin.

Another important reason relates to buyback. We set the order deadlines to allow us enough time to process book orders and determine what we will need to buy back for the upcoming quarter. This allows us to have used books right away, and students have a chance to get some of their money back at the end of the quarter.

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Why was my book ordered so much later than when I originally submitted it?

The order process takes a great deal of time. There are many, many steps to go through before a book is actually ordered from a publisher. It would be terribly inefficient, both time-wise and financially, to place separate orders for each faculty order as they are submitted. We batch the orders and circulate the batches through the used book market, separating out the titles for which we know no used books will be available. This process takes at least a week or two for each batch since we rework the lists multiple times to aggressively try for used copies.

Once the used book markets have been exhausted, we then order from the publishers/distributors. These orders are placed both electronically and by phone. This is also when any problems typically arise requiring anywhere from several minutes to several weeks of research and follow-up to try and resolve them.

To help speed up the process, you may submit requests a little at a time if you are unsure of all the books you wish to use for your course by the deadline.

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How do I place my online adoption?

You can place your book adoptions conveniently online with The University Store (click here).

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How do I find out if my books are in stock at the University Store?

To find out if your books are in stock at the University Store, please call our Courseware Department (805) 756-1171 and speak with a staff member, who can tell you if the books are in stock.

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What do I do if I want to use a coursepack?

The material to be reproduced must first be cleared by Copyright Clearance. They create the master copy that is used for reproduction at University Print and Copy. They then deliver the packets to us to sell. We are not responsible for quality, format or quantity of the packets.

When packs sell out, we place individual orders for students (called "rain checks") to University Print and Copy, and they print for us what is needed on a daily basis. If you know your enrollment is going to be much larger than the print run, you should notify the Courseware Department office. Also, it is helpful if you let them know if you plan to use a coursepack so we can be sure to reserve shelf space for it.

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Should I let the Courseware Department know if my estimated enrollment changes?

Yes! While we can monitor enrollments using information available on the university's website, it is important that we be notified about enrollment increases as soon as possible so that we may order accordingly.

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Should I let the Courseware Department know if I change my mind about requiring a book?

Yes! Sometimes we are able to cancel book orders if we know we will not be needing them after all. We then pull the cancelled books from the shelf so students do not end up buying them unnecessarily and have to hassle with a return. It also helps us determine sales history when making buying decisions for future courses. If we know a book has been cancelled, it will explain why it did not sell!

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How do I get desk copies and/or teaching aids?

The only way to obtain desk copies and/or teaching aids is through a publisher representative or the publisher directly. Please refer to the list of Area Publisher Representatives or the Faculty Center Network for detailed contact information. Most publishers' websites contain information about ordering instructor materials.

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How can I find out what books other schools are using?

The Faculty Center Network is an excellent tool for finding out what schools are using which texts. FCN categorizes by subject and type of school.

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If I know textbooks I'm using a year in advance, can I place my requests now?

Absolutely! We accept book requests as far in advance as you are realistically able to order. For example, we currently have many faculty that teach the same class each quarter, using the same books, so they submit a "standing" request for the whole year. This would also work for continuation classes, or even classes that are taught once a year but consistently use the same material.

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What other steps can I take to keep textbook costs down?

Consider using customized textbooks if only a few chapters will be eliminated. Consider reusing the same edition if the new edition contains only minimal content changes. Order bundles (with additional materials, such as CD-ROMs, study guides, etc.) only when the additional materials are required and utilized in the classroom. Avoid requiring textbooks when only one or a few chapters are needed.

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Questions? We have answers.

Phone: (805) 756-1171
Email: courseware@calpoly.edu

 
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