The Odyssey Bookshop is Mount Holyoke's local independent bookstore. We welcome comments as to what we do well, what we do not so well, and how we can do better.
When you purchase course materials here, you’ll get discount cards worth 20% off the purchase of non-course book items in the store. Whether you’re buying school supplies, holiday presents for your folks, or just a fun book to read (in your spare time), the savings can really add up. Since we started this program, we have given out over $38,000 in discounts to MHC students.
When you buy books at the Odyssey, you are supporting the local economy and a retail community that will be important to you while you are attending Mount Holyoke College. In turn, the Odyssey regularly donates to, and helps raise funds for, local non-profit organizations. For example, in November, 2008, the Odyssey raised over $18,500 for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts through an event with Stephen King.
Buying textbooks can be a daunting task. Our booksellers are here to answer questions and assist you.
No need to place orders from many different dealers - we're "one-stop shopping."
We offer a no-cost return policy. If you drop the class, you’ll have two weeks from the start of the semester to return your books.
We automatically provide replacements for defective books at no charge.
We at the Odyssey know textbook prices are too high.
The student often blames the bookstore, the bookstore blames the publisher, the publisher blames rising production costs and the thriving used book business. Regardless of the reasons, here are some things you should know about textbook costs and what the Odyssey is trying to do about them:
- The Odyssey’s Profit: Although it’s commonly believed that the Odyssey makes a great deal of money each semester selling textbooks, the truth is that textbooks represent the lowest profit margin in the book business and one of the lowest margins in all of retail. The National Association of College Stores estimates that after expenses (for example, costs of the books to us, labor costs, and costs of shipping the books in and returning them) the college store profits only about 2-4 percent.
- Used Books: The Odyssey acquires as many used books as we can and negotiates with used book vendors to get books at substantial savings so that we can pass the savings on to students.
- Working with Faculty: The Odyssey tries to educate faculty about textbook prices and encourages them to consider prices in their book choices. We also explain to them the advantage of using older editions of books because older editions can often be obtained for substantially lower costs.
We also encourage faculty to commit to using a book for two semesters or more. That way, we save on shipping the books back to the publisher, and can buy back books that may otherwise have no value in our buyback system. This semester, we have lowered the price on about ten major textbooks to less than 30% of what a used copy would normally cost. As more and more faculty get the message, we hope to increase the number of books we can offer at these special prices.
The Odyssey Bookshop has always maintained a generous course book return policy. If you drop a course, we allow book returns for 2 weeks at the beginning of each semester and only require your receipt and copy of your schedule. Many schools now strictly limit returns to only three days after purchase, and some schools are moving to a policy in which returns are for store credit only.
Nevertheless, we have noticed a dramatic rise in returns over the past few years, and are aware that many students abuse our return policy by purchasing books at the store, knowing that they will shop online for a better price and then return the books they bought here. This is a form of borrowing books, which hurts other students as well as the Odyssey, and we’d like to explain how.
1. It harms Mount Holyoke College students financially. When students borrow our used books and then return them a week or two later, it depletes our supply of used books on the shelves, depriving other students of the opportunity to buy them at the store when they need them. Those students are then forced to buy new books, which are significantly more expensive.
2. It harms our ability to control textbook costs. In this day and age of dramatically increasing textbook costs, the Odyssey’s goal is to control costs for students, reducing prices where we can, and increasing value. But this is not possible when so many students buy books they know they will be returning. This is due to the rising shipping costs, the labor costs of shelving and re-shelving books, and the cost of returning unsold copies of books to publishers.
3. It harms the Odyssey’s goal of being as carbon neutral as possible. Because of this excessive borrowing, it often becomes necessary for us to re-order books to meet demand, and then return more unsold copies than would otherwise be necessary. This extra shipping, both in and out, increases the carbon footprint of the Odyssey and Mount Holyoke College.
We understand that returns are sometimes necessary. But we strongly encourage students to buy only those books they will need and keep. By doing so, you can help us control costs, and better serve the students and faculty of the college. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.