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Refurbished Textbooks, Too

Secondhand computers are not the only preowned learning tools that districts are buying to save money. Many also are buying refurbished textbooks. In Arizona, state lawmakers are looking to cut $133 million from K12 public schools this month, while already facing a huge shortfall in the current state budget, according to Public News Service.

To reduce waste and the cost of surplus books, districts within Maricopa County are partnering with Budgetext on a recycling program. Previously, each school district within Maricopa County handled used books in separate ways. Many of them used an independent contractor to dispose of obsolete textbooks or extended separate “take all” bids for their books to major buyback companies. Under the new partnership, Budgetext representatives will visit each school to evaluate the books and purchase the salvageable ones. The partnership will generate funds for each school through selling back preowned textbooks and will clear storage spaces, says Park Anders, Budgetext CEO.

The Metropolitan Nashville (Tenn.) Public Schools saved more than $1 million in the 2008-2009 school year by purchasing refurbished textbooks, says Christy Smith, an administrative assistant in the district’s textbook department. “We usually order 50,000 used books every year,” in addition to 70,000 new ones, she says. Nashville buys its refurbished books from the Georgia Book Company, which cleans and inspects all books before shipping them out, according to Tori Phillips, its owner and operator. “They really send us decent books,” says Smith. “If something gets by that isn’t up to par, I’ll call them and they’ll take it back and replace it for us.”

Georgia Book Company gives explanations about the quality of books on its Web site. A “very good” nonfi ction book for $4.01 has “some cover and corner wear,” according to its description. A “fine” book, for $10.01, is available in “clean and crisp like new condition” with a “dust jacket not torn,” although it “may have minimal shelf wear.”

In the St. Vrain Valley (Colo.) School District, textbook clerk Diane West says the district buys books from Follett Educational Services (FES), which has a wide-ranging preowned textbook inventory. FES puts its books through “a stringent quality control review and thorough reconditioning process,” says Leanne Perry, the company’s marketing director. FES reviews books from cover to cover, looking for flaws and markings that can be corrected.

Books with excessive markings and ripped or torn pages are rejected. FES purchases its books mostly from schools or districts that no longer need them. They receive cash or credit in exchange. FES then reconditions the books for future use at another school or district.

St. Vrain Valley saved $73,494 by purchasing 2,244 books from FES between October 2008 and October 2009, West says. Preowned books are her “first priority,” and she buys new ones only when she has to, such as when the board of education approves a newly published book and used copies are not yet available. Otherwise, she says, FES “always has pretty much what I need.” The district’s 50 schools tell her each spring what they need for the fall, and West gives the order to FES, which ships the texts to the schools for free. In all the books she has bought from FES, West says, only one was unacceptable in quality, and FES immediately replaced it.