A recent graduate from Concordia University is tackling textbook prices head-on, by launching a website to help students swap used books and save money.
Gabrielle Jacques recently graduated Concordia University’s management program. She says textbook prices are so high, many can’t afford them.
"Some students will not buy a book for a class and take the risk to get a lower grade because the book is too expensive," she told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.
On top of the high prices, Jacques says when students resell their used books to the Concordia BookStore, they often only receive a fraction of the price they paid less than a year ago.
"I’m going to buy it new, use it for four months [and] it’s going to look almost brand new … They’re going to buy it back for $13. I paid $200 and they’re going to sell it as a used book for about $90," Jacques said.
'It is not the job of the University BookStore to tell the professor what edition they want to offer in that course.' - Chris Mota, Concordia University media relations
Some students have turned to classified ad websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist to cut out the middleman — but Jacques says there was a need for a centralized service.
So she launched SwapMyBooks.ca — a database where Montreal students can buy and sell their textbooks and novels.
"The point of my website was not to make money. It really came from a problem that I had," Jacques said, adding that some students can fork over as much as $1,200 a year for their books.
Concordia University: 'It's a question of supply and demand'
Chris Mota, a media relations representative for Concordia University, said the university buys back used books when it can.
But Mota said there's little the BookStore can do when professors change their course books from year to year.
'The school can talk to the teachers and tell them "You could try and help your students by not requesting the highest [priced] book,"' - Gabrielle Jacques, SwapMyBooks.ca founder
“It’s a question of supply and demand,” Mota told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.
Mota says if a professor uses the same books, the university can offer to buy back last year's texts at 50 per cent.
However, if an instructor opts to change texts, Mota says the value drops substantially, making them "basically unsellable."
"The bottom line is: it is not the job of the University BookStore to tell the professor what edition they want to offer in that course. If the professor says 'this is the book for the course,' that is what the BookStore will sell."
But Jacques says the university could be fighting harder for students.
"The school can talk to the teachers and tell them ‘You could try and help your students by not requesting the highest [priced] book,’" she said.
"Whether it’s the bookstores or it's the publishers, there’s a problem somewhere."