What does "guaranteed buyback" mean?

September 1, 2017

If you buy your books from your BMC Bookshop and if you decide at the end of the semester you don’t want to keep a book, we guarantee that we’ll buy it back during finals week. All we ask is that you keep your BMC Bookshop receipt and show it at buyback.

We guarantee buyback on ALL real books that we sell. The guarantee does not extend to bundles, access codes and loose-leaf course materials, though we do buy back some books that were included in bundles and some loose-leaf titles.

Buyback prices vary considerably. We do not use a fixed percentage of original retail prices. Each title is individually priced based on market value. We obtain bids from multiple vendors, and we offer the highest prices we can based on the bids that we receive. We also pay a premium for books that faculty commit to using again here at Bryn Mawr.

In practice, during the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the middle 50% of titles were priced between about 7% and 26% of the original new copy retail price. The lowest price was about 5%. The highest price was about 46%. What that means is that for 50% of titles that originally sold for $20 new, we paid between $1.50 and $5.50. One thing to keep in mind is that the amount you get at buyback is the same whether you bought the book new or used. So for that book that cost $20 new, our used price might have been $14 — 70% of new is our default price for used (though there are a number of titles at less than 70%). If you paid $14 and you get back about $5, your percentage back is 35%, not 26%.

Books must come back in sellable condition: bindings intact and no water damage.

We understand that buyback prices are never as high as you’d like them to be. We get the disappointment. But we work hard to pay as much as we can given the constraints of the market, and we try to share price data with you as best we can. When we have bids in place at the beginning of the semester, we post guaranteed buyback prices on our websites so you can see both purchase price and buyback price, and you can calculate your net cost of use.

(What really disappoints us is the idea that we’re allowing the market to set “values” for books — as if the Invisible Hand is more qualified than, say, philosophers are to price Plato. The market is amoral and knows nothing of intrinsic value. It knows only supply and demand. But the market is also where we all inevitably go to exchange money for things, so we are stuck with its decisions on price. When we say “value” throughout this post, what we are really talking about is price. And the quip about people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing runs through our heads every time we think about buyback. We aspire not to be that person, but here we are.)

Most importantly, we are confident that in virtually every case, we are offering as much or more than any other retailer will for you books (including Amazon). Usually, the only way to get more for your book is to sell it directly to another student online or here at Bryn Mawr; that can be effective, but it can also be a pain. Because no other single retailer will guarantee to buy ALL of the books used here at Bryn Mawr, there’s no easier way to get cash for your books than buyback at your BMC Bookshop. Just as we offer one-stop shopping at the beginning of the semester, we offer one-stop sellback at the end of the semester.

We will buy back many titles regardless of where you purchased them, so please bring in books that you bought online or from other students. Last year, we were able to buy back about 75% of titles regardless of receipt. So even for folks who shopped elsewhere, the odds are in your favor.

The guarantee only applies within the current semester — i.e. books you purchase here in August/September for Fall will definitely be bought back during finals week in December. Books purchased in January for Spring will definitely be bought back during finals in May. Your books might still have a value in subsequent semesters, so it’s always worthwhile checking with us even if you’re past the guarantee period.