Retail Textbook Profits Increase

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Managers of several local retail textbook stores are reporting increases in sales this year, despite rising competition from online booksellers.

Sales at textbook stores in the area, including the Cal Student Store, Ned's and Campus Textbook Exchange, have either stayed steady or increased this year, retailers said.

The ASUC is projecting its income this year to be approximately $15 million, up from an estimated $14 million last year, said Tom Cordi, ASUC auxiliary director.

At the same time, profits of online booksellers seem to be increasing rapidly, said John Bates, co-founder of

"We have seen phenomenal growth in San Francisco, Calif., and pretty much the whole nation," Bates said.

Heightened sales at both retail and online booksellers may be explained by a growing demand, he added.

"Accessibility may increase consumer demand, so that online businesses can be booming while the retail stores still stay steady," Bates said. "You might see a lot of senior citizens and people who are into self-improvement going into their local bookstore or to (an online site)."

Despite concerns, online competitors have not had as great an effect on retail textbook sellers as some anticipated, said Les Dean, Cal Student Store manager.

"I just read an article (stating) that online sales have not been as popular as they were projected to be," Dean said. "People are still buying books the old-fashioned way."

Dean attributes the steady sales increase by retail bookstores during a period of growing online distributors to the rising cost of textbooks.

"I think one thing that's happening is that we're getting more expensive books because CDs are starting to be included," he said. "Sure, there's inflation, but more than anything would be the fact that they're putting more into books."

Meanwhile, many retail textbook companies responded to online competition this year with Web site services of their own.

Follett, the supplier for the Cal Student Store's textbook department, launched an online service in January 1999.

"Since there are so many online competitors I think it's more a defensive measure than anything," Dean said.

Students continue shopping at retail stores because they prefer seeing the product they purchase firsthand, said Ken Peterson, Campus Textbook Exchange store manager.

"I don't think in the long run (retail textbook sales are) going to be dramatically affected because when you're buying a book from an online seller, you don't know exactly what you're getting," Peterson said. "I think people will try it at first and then change their minds later."


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