New law requires ISBN disclosure

IUS Horizon

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers – the privately-held, sister company of Barnes & Noble Inc. – posted its International Standard Book Numbers online Jan. 3 after the spring 2009 book buying season started.

Katie Warren, Barnes & Noble employee, scans items for a student. A new federal law will require college bookstores to post ISBNs for students in 2010.
Katie Warren, Barnes & Noble employee, scans items for a student. A new federal law will require college bookstores to post ISBNs for students in 2010.

The move comes eight months after the Higher Education Opportunity Act was signed into law by former president George W. Bush, and two months after the IU Southeast Student Government Association protested the arrival of Barnes & Noble representatives at the November Faculty Senate meeting.

Although SGA was, until recently, unaware of the legislation, they were happy with the outcome.

“When you truly want to see a change for the better, you must participate in the avenues available to you,” Flo Gonya, IUS student body president, said. “If you hold fast to your convictions with dogged determination, you will see change. The system still works.”     

Section 112, paragraph four of the Higher Education Opportunity Act requires all universities to provide students with ISBNs to facilitate an expedient search for the most affordable textbooks.

The law becomes enforceable in 2010, but several colleges, including Indiana University and its satellite campuses, are forgoing the wait.

Jill Schunk, IU Bloomington Purchasing Department director of operations, refused to comment on the change of policy, but Andy Milevoj, Barnes & Noble director of investor relations, said he is not concerned with the change in policy.

“Barnes & Noble college booksellers is a privately held company and it is completely separate from Barnes & Noble Inc,” Milevoj said.

Milevoj said Barnes & Noble, Inc.’s principal business is the sale of trade books such as hardcover and paperback consumer titles, mass market paperbacks, children’s books, bargain books, magazines, gift, music and movies direct to customers.

“These collectively account for substantially all of the company’s sales,” Milevoj said.

In a report to the IU Bloomington Faculty Senate concerning bookstore operations, Schunk said the only consistent complaint she received from one of IU’s satellite campuses was the bookstore not supplying enough textbooks to meet the needs of students or faculty.

“After sending an email to all full-time faculty at Indiana University East, I received several e-mails about bookstore problems,” Schunk said. “The only recurring theme was that the bookstore apparently does not order enough books.

Other complaints Schunk said she received, apparently not frequently, were the ordering procedures of the bookstore, the bookstore’s refusal to buy back special edition textbooks, not stocking frequently requested books and that the bookstore is not helpful in creating course packages.

Now that it takes fewer steps than a Google search to find an ISBN, more students– especially traditional, may have an easier time buying books from websites like Amazon, Half.com and Canada-based ABEbooks.com.

Richard Davies, ABEbooks.com spokesman, said college textbooks have become an increasingly important commodity in recent years.

“In September 2005, the Book Industry Study Group  reported that educational books accounted for the largest part of America’s used book market,” Davies said. “It further revealed that used book sales accounted for $2.2 billion in sales in 2004 with $1.6 billion coming from educational books. Around $38.6 million of educational books were sold on the Internet in 2004 an increase of 38% on 12 months earlier.”

These studies, and their resulting statistics, were factored long before legislation requiring universities to make it easier for students to rind reasonably affordable textbooks was even introduced to the House of Representatives.

For many students, buying things online poses the danger of not receiving the right items or receiving them late.

Davies said most students receive their books within five days of their purchase. Davies also said if there is a problem with a book, it is usually resolved within 15 business days with no extra cost to the student. 

Angel Dyke, psychology junior and former SGA secretary, said she has been buying and selling books on the Internet throughout her college career.

“I set up my Half.com account to where I could buy and sell books,” Dyke said. “I ended up spending $100, and after I was finished with them, I sold them on the same website for $240.  It was one of the best jobs I have had in a while.”

Dyke said her friend, who has a similar account with Amazon.com, made a larger profit than she did, and her books have always come in reasonable time.

The only requirements to opening an account with an online book merchant is a valid credit card, which can either belong to the student, or the student’s parents’ or legal guardians and an active e-mail account.

By MICHAEL MARCELL
Staff Writer
mdmarcel@ius.edu