I thought that Koon Lin Wong’s article about the BYU Bookstore buy back was helpful and informative.
While I was living in Provo, I worked for several years on the text floor of the bookstore during buy back. It seemed to me that many of the students were annoyed with the bookstore and its staff had an unclear concept of the purpose of the bookstore. Although booklets are available to all students, probably few of them take the time to read about the bookstore and about purchasing or selling books there. Many of them are probably unaware that the bookstore is self-supporting. It does not receive any funds from the Church for its support. In order to be a viable business, it must make a profit.
We are fortunate to have a bookstore with a lower mark-up on textbooks and the privilege of buying books tax-free. The buy back percentage at the bookstore is 60% and is the highest in the nation. However, the text department logically will only buy back books that they are able to resell to students. This is the only practical procedure for any business whether it is the bookstore or a national wholesaler.
If a professor is not using a book in the future because a new edition is coming out or there is a better text available, the bookstore will have no market for reselling it. And if professors do not place an order for a book, the buyers at the bookstore will not risk the loss of buying an unmarketable text.
I think that the bookstore tries to be a responsible part of the BYU community. I have some times wished in the past that students had a better understanding that it is a business. Especially in today’s world, there are many more markets in which a student may buy or sell their textbooks. This gives students more options but also provides more competition to the bookstore as well.
As I have watched BYU students express their anger at times when they have not been able to sell back a book or did not get the amount that they hoped for, I have also wished that I could point out to them that frequently the wholesale buyer they are dealing with is not LDS. Almost all of the students are gracious, but occasionally an angry student can leave the non-LDS national buyers with a negative impression while LDS employees are left feeling embarrassed at their language or short-sighted behavior.