University-area bookstores compete over table space during the buy-back time

David Maly

As buy-back season for local textbook stores approaches, several of store owners told The Daily Texan about the conflict often associated with the season and what they expect to see this year.

Ken Jones, owner of Austin TXbooks on Guadalupe Street, said in recent years competition between local textbook stores has been growing as an increasing number of tables are being set up near campus to buy textbooks back from students. He said this competition can sometimes cross legal and ethical lines.

“Lies are being told, stories are being made up, city officials are being involved and permitting issues are being brought into play,” Jones said. “In some cases, it is close to even physical violence out there, angry words exchanged, threats, just, it is just ugly. I just do not like the buy-back season.”

Jones would not go into detail about those issues, but Brad North, co-founder of West Campus Books, a store that operates online but tables during the buy-back season, said he has heard about scuffles between employees at rival textbook stores.

“In the heat of the moment, it may turn into a scuffle here or there between employees,” North said. “We have heard stories.”

Jones and North said their stores did get into an online conflict when they bought similar domain sites to each other.

George Mitchell, CEO and president of the University Co-op, said he keeps his store out of the conflict.

“People are going out into the street and yelling at customers and all that stuff, and we don’t do those things,” Mitchell said.

Jones said between the four major textbook stores, his store, the University Co-op, BookHolders and West Campus Books, 20 to 30 tables are now normally set up in the area. Jones said only four years ago, those tables were not present.

He said his store set up its first table in 2008, and it was quickly followed by tables from other stores in coming year.

“[West Campus Books] started setting up tables,” Jones said. “They would surround us and then we would branch out and then BookHolders came in, and they started doing that, setting up also … It’s good for the kids because they don’t have to walk all the way to any store to sell their books.”

Jones said this competition also helps students becauses it increases the amount textbook stores are willing to pay for used textbooks.

Jones and North said they both hope to keep the buy-back season peaceful this year.

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Textbook buy-back starts tabling conflict