Unreturned rentals affecting bookstore

By Brooks Schaefer - Staff Reporter

The Highline bookstore has been experiencing shortages lately due to students not returning their rental books on time or at all. 

Bookstore Manager Kristine Dopp said this shortage has put some books out of stock but will not prevent the bookstore from renting out books in the future. 

By no means is this a new problem, Dopp said.

"We always have a population of late rental returns [or non-returned books]," she said.

"It's not a huge percentage, but it does happen every quarter," Dopp said. "We need the books back on time because a lot of times we use them next quarter, and we are ordering on what we know is coming back." 

More and more students are renting their books each quarter and fewer are buying them.  In Fall Quarter 2016, 1,400 books were rented, Dopp said, of which 250 were not returned.  Overall, 17 percent of textbooks were rented by students rather than purchased outright. 

About 1,150 books were rented for Winter Quarter.

This impacts the bookstore's finances.  Overall sales in 2016 were $2.4 million, compared to $2.7 million the year before. 

The bookstore is a self-sustaining department of the college, and any profit it makes goes to support college activities. 

"We don't take any general fund money. …  Everything we make goes back into the college," Dopp said.  

The bookstore charges a student's credit card if he or she doesn't return a rented textbook, Dopp said, which could ultimately affect a student's credit rating. 

"This hurts everyone if you don't return your books," she said. 

Even without rental non-returns, the bookstore often has to scramble to fill textbook orders, Dopp said. 

"Sometimes we get the order late from the instructors, and that may or may not be the instructor's fault," she said.  

"Sometimes the department hasn't made all of its teaching assignments," Dopp said.

"Sometimes we get late information, sometimes we make a mistake with ordering, sometimes a book is out of print and the cost is really high, even on Amazon, because we use amazon as a source too.  Sometimes we can't get the book and it goes out of stock."

Although this shortage is a problem, "the very big picture is that textbook sales are declining," Dopp said.

The bookstore has a solution. 

"We are definitely trying to increase our sales in other areas," Dopp said, such as snacks and art supplies. 

"It's great that you don't have to spend so much on textbooks but it's hard to make up the difference in sales," Dopp said. 

Textbooks sales may be decreasing but the bookstore "will never let any shortages or financial hardships prevent us from renting to you. … We will keep our rental programs as robust as we can." 

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