Bookstore operating agreement leaves students seeking textbooks

By Bethaney Lee

The San Francisco Community College District Bookstore Auxillary’s contract with Follett Higher Education Group, Inc. was extended to March 31, 2019.

City College bookstores and Follett have until 120 days before the contract’s expiration date to terminate it. Should this not occur, the agreement will automatically renew for another five years.

The contract’s first amendment specifies that the term extension “is agreed to in exchange for Follett purchasing and operating a coffee cart in front of the Conlan Hall bookstore.”

Coffee in hand, however, a student entering the Ocean Campus bookstore could spend an  “average of $84.14” per book, according to’s new national survey.

Follett not only operates City College bookstores, it also sets the prices for all books. Operating and managing over 1,200 campus bookstores nationwide, Follett averages $2.5 billion in revenue annually.

“On new, used, rental and digital course materials, Follett will be setting retail prices for each title in line with current industry-wide pricing for higher education course materials,” the Bookstore Operating Agreement states. “Any given title’s used book selling price or rental fee may vary as a percentage of the retail selling price of the new book or materials.”

Bookstore prices remain unaffordable for many college students.

Illustration by Auryana Rodriguez
Illustration by Auryana Rodriguez

“It’s affected me because this city is so expensive and having to budget every penny when it comes to my education is rough. The price of my books went over my $100 budget,” photography student Kazumi Makimoto said.

The Bookstore Operating Agreement states “Follett will charge industry standard, competitive and fair prices.” However, paired with San Francisco’s inflated living costs, even fair textbook prices are often too expensive for students.

“It makes me broke and then I have to work more at my job,” 20-year-old student Yeyetsi Vargas Gonzales said. “This causes me to stress out. And when the teachers tell us to buy books because we will need them and we end up not using them, it’s very frustrating. Education and books should be free, or at least affordable.”

Some students use alternative methods to reduce book costs such as purchasing older textbook editions and used textbooks from online retailers.

Physics major Ian Stewart said “I spent most of my time hunting for cheaper books and I get them late, which affects my learning in class.”

Stewart said he spent $70 in textbooks this year by turning to “PDFs online, used books from craigslist and friends” to save money.

City College’s Stores Director Robert Gibson and Textbook Buyer Rose Twyman were unavailable for comment.

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