College Bookstore is Fighting State Ruling on Textbook Information

College Bookstore is Fighting State Ruling on Textbook Information

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OREM, Utah (AP) -- Owners of an Orem bookstore that sells college textbooks say the state is conspiring to drive their business away -- and back to the state-owned student bookstores.

David Monk and Mike Winward, who operate Beat the Bookstore, an independent retailer of college texts, claim state officials clamped down on information about which college texts would be used in classes fall semester.

The move came after the entrepreneurs announced plans to open a shop in Ogden to compete with Weber State University's on-campus bookstore, they said.

An assistant Utah attorney general denied a request by Monk and Winward for an electronic copy of the schools' book lists -- and also said the schools will no longer provide information critical to ordering the textbooks from wholesalers.

Although Utah Valley State College has provided the information for three semesters, Assistant Attorney General David C. Jones wrote in a letter sent Friday to Monk and Winward that parts of the colleges' textbook lists -- the numbers listed above the bar code on the back of books -- are "a protected record and exempt from disclosure."

The bookstore's owners said Jones' opinion is an attempt by the state-owned schools to shut out the competition.

The owners say if they don't have the numbers above the bar code -- called International Standard Book Numbers -- then they don't know which book to order.

The store's attorney, Jeff Hunt, said Utah's open-records statute doesn't provide that protection. "That the state has a monopoly is not an accepted reason under the law to close public records," said Hunt, who has represented Utah news media in open-records issues.

Hunt said the state can't backtrack now and refuse to provide records it gave the store for the past year.

Winward said he and Monk are considering legal action.

Winward anticipated sales of more than $600,000 this fall, but college bookstores began ordering books a month ago and many of the used versions of those books are becoming harder to find.

However, a UVSC representative said the information requested by owners of Beat the Bookstore was provided last Friday, although on paper and not in the electronic format the owners had requested.

UVSC spokesman Derek Hall said UVSC Vice President of Finance and Human Resources Douglas Warner, who received the written appeal Monday, had no comment on the matter.

"We have thousands of sections across campus. We collect these forms from the departments for months and as we get the forms, we start ordering the books and so it's a big, long process," Hall said.

Occasionally mistakes are made on the forms and bookstore staff must research to correct the mistakes, Hall said. The school does not intend to give this researched material to Beat the Bookstore because that would be subsidizing the business, he said.

"We're not going to take college funds to make it easier for them to compete with the college bookstore," Hall said.

But, Winward said, the lists released on Friday cover 50 percent of UVSC's class offerings.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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