April 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Textbooks spring a surprise at online used book marketplace Biblio

Textbook sales typically spike in spring and fall back-to-school seasons, but Biblio.com reports an unexpected 50% jump in late March and early April. Is it the economy?

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Biblio.com executives expect textbook sales to spike during the spring and fall back-to-school seasons. But this year they were surprised by a more than 50% jump in textbook sales at the online used book marketplace from March 21 to April 3.

"In the past, we have hardly been able to discern any measurable fluctuation in textbook sales this time of year,” says CEO Brendan Sherar. “This recent uptick is very apparent and we predict it will be briefer than the `major` textbook seasons. But any incremental revenue gain is of course welcome to any company in this economic climate."

The economic downturn could help explain the unusual increase. Sherar notes there have been reports of growing enrollments at colleges and universities, especially at community colleges that often operate on the quarter system. Their spring quarters often begin in March-in the middle of a typical college semester.

Or it could just be that consumers are being more careful with their money, says Stephen Bakes, director of bookseller relations. "People are increasingly making careful decisions about spending in a tough economy, and the savings to be had from used textbooks over new textbooks may be more appealing than in years past,” Bakes says. Internet sales of textbooks have increased over the past five years as students and parents seek to economize on textbook purchases that can run $1,000 a year when books are bought through college bookstores, the retailer says.

Biblio.com is No. 361 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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