ISU Book Store wins awards for excellence in savings


Sam Greene/Iowa State Daily

A student worker searches the shelves of the Memorial Union bookstore to complete student’s online pre-orders for textbooks and other required supplies.

Mollie Shultz

While many college students complain about the high prices of their textbooks, the Iowa State Book Store tirelessly works to ensure students save money through a variety of initiatives.

On Feb. 20, the Independent College Bookstore Association (ICBA) announced the winners of its annual awards and recognized the Iowa State Book Store’s efforts.

The Book Store was the winner of two awards, the Excellence in Course Materials Management award and the MVP Award for Overall Outstanding Performance.

The awards were presented based off of the numbers that each bookstore turned in to the ICBA. Iowa State’s win in the MVP category is the second win in this category in five years. The bookstore also won the award four years ago.

Some astounding numbers that helped the bookstore win these prestigious awards include increasing material sales by more than 50 percent while decreasing the average cost of textbooks per semester by $120 for students. The Iowa State Book Store has also managed to control its expenses to great success. Expenses at the bookstore have only increased by a total of 0.5 percent in the last five years.

Director of the bookstore, Rita Phillips, takes pride in how successfully and efficiently she and her staff manage the university store. Since taking over the bookstore as interim director in 2009 and officially becoming the director in 2010, Phillips and her team have implemented a multitude of new saving opportunities to aid students.

“When I decided I wanted to get out of banking I wanted to go somewhere where I could make a difference in the lives of someone,” Phillips said. “So I wanted to come and make a difference in the lives of students.”

Some of these include the book rental program. The program was implemented in 2010 and originally started with about 100 titles for rental. That number has grown to more than 1,600 titles and is continuing to rise.

Another savings opportunity is the price, compare, save option on AccessPlus when students search for textbooks. Even if students choose to use other options through sites such as Amazon, getting to that site through the bookstore website gives the bookstore a small fraction of the profit.

Independent bookstores are owned and operated by their universities, and the bookstore is one of the most efficiently run independent college stores in the nation. Phillips said the bookstore only employs 25 full-time employees, with about 100 part-time students, which she said is the lowest they can have to function efficiently.

Phillips’ long-term goal from the start was to run the store as efficiently as possible, she said, and she is on her way to achieving this.

“I always say it’s fewer people working smarter,” Phillips said.

Phillips said she understands the struggle students go through to pay for school materials, especially in the ever-changing world of new technology. Some students have been coming to college from 100 percent digital high schools. The price of the book depends on the form, whether it’s used, rented or digital.

Phillips said she sees textbooks as needs and wants to do anything she can to lower the price.

“As a director, you have to be working with your faculty on campus to know what are the needs and what are the wants,” Phillips said.

Shay Durflinger, sophomore in English, said she appreciates the efforts the bookstore goes through and she uses many of the savings-oriented program such as the price, compare, save tool and the rental program.

“Textbooks are pretty expensive, but it’s nice to know that they try to lower the prices so that we can afford them,” Durflinger said.