"I think (textbooks) are too expensive," said sophomore Amy Way, who spent about $350 on books this semester. "They've always been that way, and it's something you deal with."
But John Jones, director of UNC-Chapel Hill Student Stores, said the Course Materials Department of Student Stores' pricing is in line with college bookstores across the country. Textbooks are simply an expensive item to produce. "They sell in low numbers," Jones said. "Typically there's a lot of time, expensive graphics, royalty payments and the need for publishers to make a profit."
All books are priced one of two ways at Student Stores -- either the publisher sets the retail price or sells the book to the store at a wholesale price. In either case the store makes the same profit.
Steve Thurston, manager of Ram Book and Supply on Franklin Street, said the store's mark-up varies. "We discount the book based on if it was in circulation or if we had to order them," he said, adding that the store buys a list of books from Student Stores and carries books for most undergraduate classes.
Arvind Satyam, a foreign exchange student from Sydney, Australia, said the $360 cost of his books surprised him. "It was more than at home," he said. "I bought a textbook last year at home and I've seen the same one here for two times as much."
Thurston said his store offers the lowest book prices in Chapel Hill. "UNC Student Stores' purpose is to put a book on the shelf for every student," he said. "My purpose is to be competitive and put more used books on the shelves."
Jones agreed that competition is not Student Stores' mission. "Ours is more service orientation," said Jones, who estimated that 95 percent of students buy books from Student Stores. "If you really wanted to maximize your profits, you wouldn't carry all books for all courses."
Student Stores is required by N.C. law to donate its profits to scholarships. Jones said the store only withholds what it needs for capital improvements. Jones said Student Stores usually gives between four and five cents of every dollar sold to scholarships. Jones said last year the store gave $1 million and should again this year.