Seller: Instructor book resale legal

If you’ve noticed any black tape on one of your textbooks, chances are it’s the result of a deal between a faculty member at any university nationwide and an independent book buyer.

The results of these deals, publishers said, drive up the cost of textbooks, but they said there is nothing they can do to stop faculty members selling the books.

The black tape covers labels that identify the books as instructor copies, which are sent to professors free of charge, noting that they are not to be resold.

At the campus bookstore, textbooks for at least 10 courses were covered with black tape at one point.

Roman Coronado, textbook manager at the campus bookstore, said the bookstore is aware that the taped copies are resold instructor copies, and that wholesalers put a new barcode on the instructor copies so they appear as student copies.

“At that point, it’s already been ordered (by the bookstore) and pretty much almost already been paid for,” Coronado said. “I can return it, but I’m losing out because if I just place another order, chances are they’re going to send (the same copies) back again.”

Bruce Hildebrand, executive director of higher education for the Association of American Publishers, said it is a standard practice for publishing companies to send free textbook copies to professors, whether they are requested or are unsolicited, as a form of advertising. The copies are intended to allow professors to consider using the book for their classes, and if the books are not used and sent back, then professors may keep them for reference, he said.

Nanci Brown, manager of, a discount online bookstore, said that although labels on the instructor copies read “Do not resell,” it is not illegal to sell them.

Professors sell the books to independent book buyers and online textbook companies, Hildebrand said. The book buyers may visit professors in person, he said, or professors can go to the online buyers and send the books to them in exchange for payment.

Brown said that the textbook companies put the tape on the books and sell them to students.

Coronado said the TCU bookstore receives taped books from the wholesaler it orders from when the bookstore does not have enough used books after buying them from students, and that is how the taped books end up in the bookstore.

Bill Moncrief, senior associate dean of undergraduate studies at the Neeley School of Business, said the Neeley School has an informal policy that warns professors against selling their instructor copies to independent book buyers who come to campus, but professors are not and cannot be penalized if they do sell their books. He said the policy was started as a means of support for professors’ fellow textbook authors, who receive no royalties from the sale of a used copy.

“Since (the publishers are) sending (instructor copies) free, it seems unethical to me to turn around and sell that book to somebody else,” he said.

Junior communications major Jordan Brown said he thinks it is fine if professors return books to publishers, but does not think it is OK for professors to sell something that was sent for free. He said, however, if he were a professor, he would probably sell his free copies too.

“If the publishers can’t keep me from doing it, why not?” he said. “But as far as being a student, no, I wouldn’t want them driving our textbook prices up.”

Hildebrand said publishers lose money when instructor copies are sold on the used book market because it detracts from a possible sale of a new textbook from the publisher. Because the publishers need to make up the cost of publishing the textbooks, he said, they raise the price.

Brown disagreed.

“(Selling used books and instructors’ copies) does deter new textbook sales, and that’s why they don’t want you selling,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter; (publishers) don’t want you buying or selling used text books either…because they don’t get the royalties from that.”

Coronado said even though the used book system is good for students, the selling of instructor copies is the reason why books are more expensive.

“The more expensive a new copy…the more expensive the used copy’s going to become,” he said.

Rebecca Jordan, management professor in the Neeley School of Business, said if the publishers do not want professors to put instructor copies on the market, they should not send as many unsolicited copies. She said if they want the books to be sent back, publishers should make it easier for professors to send them back, like providing an envelope for return mail when the books are originally sent.

Hildebrand said, however, that some books include an envelope, and there are other ways for professors to send back books, like having them picked up by a publisher’s marketing representative.

Sending electronic copies could help solve some of the problem, but Brown said going to electronic copies wouldn’t make a difference.

“I think it would make pirating a lot…easier for certain people out there that can do that,” she said.

Publishers send free instructor copies to professors ¯ Professors either (1) return copy to publisher, (2) keep it or (3) sell to independent buyer ¯ Independent and online buyers purchase from professors, use black tape to cover “Instructor copy” and “Do not resell” labels ¯ Wholesalers buy taped copies from book buyers, sell them at used prices to bookstores ¯ Bookstores receive taped copies from wholesalers and sell to students at used prices.