In order to better serve today’s college students there needs to be an elimination of the single on campus bookstore model and a birth of a new multi-on campus bookstore model. There are great economic benefits to consumers when competition is encouraged and a monopoly is abolished. Ordinarily, a typical college has one retail bookstore on campus. The mammoth Follett Corporation runs the campus bookstore at Erie Community College (ECC), the school in which I currently attend. Additionally, the giant Follett Corporation is the nation’s largest operator of college bookstores and generates $2.7 billion in annual sales. Smartly planting itself on many college campuses across America puts the mighty Follett Corporation at a strategic and economic advantage over any potential bookstore competitors. The incredible cost of college textbooks today is a direct result of having little or no competition within the very lucrative college textbook marketplace.
Just one of my required textbooks for the Spring 2013 semester at ECC has a price tag of $164! No student in America should be paying such an outlandish price for a textbook, but until there’s enough of an uproar to get our college officials and government representatives to abandon the monopolistic tentacles of the powerful Follett Corporation, these price tags will continue to rise. Inviting and encouraging other retail bookstores to set up shop on campus would definitely cause the college textbook prices to drop significantly. There needs to be a serious demand to get rid of having only one college bookstore on campus.
The beauty and benefits of dismantling a monopoly is evident in our marketplace today, especially within the telephone industry. In 1974, the Bell System Corporation, commonly known as “Ma Bell”, had $150 billion in assets, $70 billion in revenue, and a million employees. Clearly, Ma Bell solely controlled the American telephone market with no real competition during this time. With information and backing from the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Justice Department had determined that Ma Bell had grown too big and filed an antitrust lawsuit against them under the Sherman Antitrust Act. After years of back and forth litigation, the case was settled and the huge Bell System Corporation agreed to basically break up into 22 smaller companies, sometimes referred to as “baby bells.” Thanks to the Federal government breaking up Ma Bell, our telephone bills today are reasonable and affordable. If Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Cricket didn’t exist, a sole cellular company could charge customers whatever rates they want to. Stopping a monopoly such as Ma Bell creates competition by expanding the market, brings down cost, and helps to lower prices to consumers.
In my own community I see the economic benefits of fair competition every day. When I’m in the food court at the Main Place Mall in downtown Buffalo, I already know beforehand that, regardless of which food vendor I choose to patronize, I probably won’t be spending over $7 for a quick lunch. To draw and keep customers coming back, Tijuana Taco, Hoagie Brothers, Gino & Joe’s Pizzeria, and Ding How Chinese Express must keep their prices similar to the food vendor next door to them. Nearly every day I pass two gas stations that are almost directly across the street from the other near Bailey Avenue and Langfield Drive. To stay competitive and to ensure that it doesn’t lose customers, FAST TRAC sells its regular unleaded gas at $3.93 per gallon, the same price as WE PUMP YOUR GAS, their rivals directly across the street.
I hope that my grandkids and the next generation of students will see college textbook prices fall to under $60 per print copy. It would be a wonderful sight to one day see, on the second floor of ECC-City Campus, two or three separate bookstores there, instead of just the one. Although the monopolistic Follett Corporation has turned the college textbook market into a scam and a clever white collar rip off, it’s not too late to destroy this big monopoly beast and revamp the on campus bookstore model into a more competitive and student-friendly model. Let’s get the word out and start this ball rolling!- Randolph Randy Camp March 2, 2013
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