One textbook company has partnered with the BYU Store and several other campus bookstores across the country to offer students cash for textbooks that they can keep until the end of the semester. Parent company Sidewalk started its Cash and Keep program earlier this year.
“Essentially we’ll give you cash on the spot for your textbooks,” Sidewalk regional manager John Fenton said. “And the beauty of it is, you can keep the book until after finals.”
The Salt Lake City based company was originally founded in 2007 by a college student who couldn’t make sense of textbook prices and the inefficiencies that seemed to be driving them. Sidewalk has been on a mission “to deliver significant value to students through meaningful partnerships within the college retail industry,” according to its website.
The average price received through Cash and Keep is about a dollar less than what a student would typically get at the end of the semester from the campus bookstore. However, with Cash and Keep students can get the money mid-semester and still keep the book until the end of finals. This way students lock in their money while avoiding the long lines during buyback week.
“When we tell students they can get $43 now or $44 in six weeks … generally it’s not really worth waiting six weeks for a dollar,” Fenton said. “You don’t have the buyback lines or the uncertainty that comes with buyback week, and most importantly it keeps the inventory here on campus.”
Bookstores using Cash and Keep can secure inventory in the middle of the semester before students have a chance to sell their books elsewhere. Bookstores can see their inventory entry levels before the semester ends because they know the books from Cash and Keep will be coming back.
“If the bookstore has a lot of rentals coming back at the end of the semester as well as a number of books from the Cash and Keep program, they will have a high level of used inventory,” Fenton said. “This will facilitate conversations between campus bookstores and professors because the bookstore doesn’t want to see all the used inventory go to waste or become obsolete if the professor adopts the newest version of the textbook.”
The Cash and Keep program also provides inventory directly for the store. When a student returns a book at the end of the semester through Cash and Keep, that specific bookstore gets to keep the book instead of sending it off to a wholesaler.
“At first that may sound like it’s only beneficial for the bookstore, but what it means is that BYU will have access to more used inventory than they had in the past,” Fenton said. “And I think every student would prefer to buy a used book because it’s so much cheaper.”
Student response has been hugely positive since the program started Winter Semester 2015. Students appreciate getting cash up front and like knowing they are helping textbooks be cheaper for the next semester.
“Trying to sell your textbooks at the end of the semester can be really hard — I still have textbooks from several semesters ago that I was never able to get rid of,” said BYU senior Alec Wight. “Cash and Keep was really easy to use, and I liked that I could turn in my books and get cash on the spot instead of having to wait until the end of the semester.”
Campus bookstores also enjoy the program, Fenton said. Cash and Keep gives them a chance to capture inventory before online competition has a chance to do so, and this increases student foot traffic throughout the stores.
“We don’t have a single store that used Cash and Keep last semester that isn’t already signed up for it again this year,” Fenton said. “We’re really excited to partner with more stores throughout the country and overall help lower the cost of textbooks.”