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Bookstores

Faculty and students at Bridgewater College in Virginia complained increasingly in recent years about the unavailability of textbooks at the campus bookstore. To control inventory, the store stocked only a percentage of materials required if everyone purchased what was expected.

Campus business officers also noted a rapid decline in textbook revenue and related commissions, as students pursued lower-cost alternatives to purchasing books from the store.

Bill Dampier

Most bookstores that are on campus are threatened by external competition. Students are already shopping around for the best value when acquiring their course materials. 

As the academic retail industry faces unprecedented changes in student behavior and rapid advances in technology, campus bookstores need to rise above the transaction. Today’s campus bookstores must focus on delivering a superior experience that supports and celebrates the cultural and academic aspirations of students, faculty and alumni.

 Today, preparing for a course may require students to gather a wide variety of resources, both printed and digital.

Preparing to take a college-level course once meant simply heading to the campus bookstore and purchasing the textbook. Today, preparing for a course may require students to gather a wide variety of resources, both printed and digital. And while the printed items are still available at the bookstore, accessing a variety of digital materials is not always an easy task.

Not everyone on campus is ready to use e-books, video lectures and other digital learning materials. But the campus bookstore can help in the adoption of new technology.

“As the course materials information center on campus, college stores are uniquely positioned to be the go-to resources on digital,” says Elizabeth McIntyre, vice president of communications and public relations at the National Association of College Stores. “Stores should take a role in educating the campus community about digital.”

When students in an honors business and professional communications course at Robert Morris University (Pa.) conducted research on textbooks, a survey revealed that 14 percent of their peers knew at least one student who dropped out of school because he or she could not afford to pay for textbooks. And when administrators learned of that finding, they took action.

The U of Arkansas Bookstore, which resides in the 50,000-square-foot, retail-focused Garland Center on campus, uses text messaging and mobile coupon offers to drive traffic. The promotions target specific demographics based on current marketing needs and goals.

As books become digital and online retailers distribute college branded T-shirts, Pillow Pets, and logo-emblazoned caps, the future of college stores faces many uncertainties. College retailers, however, hold advantages other retailers would give their right cash register for: a captive audience, a well-recognized local (or national) brand, and a steady stream of new customers who have little choice but to shop at your store, at least once in a while.

In a step toward improving college access and affordability, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law two bills that will provide students with free access to digital textbooks.

Bills 1052 and 1053, passed in late September, call for creating free, open source digital textbooks for 50 of the most widely taken introductory courses among the University of California, The California State University, and California Community Colleges systems, and creating a state digital open source library to house the texts.

In a step toward improving college access and affordability, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law two bills that will provide students with free access to digital textbooks.

Bills 1052 and 1053, passed last week, call for creating free, open source digital textbooks for 50 of the most widely taken introductory courses among the University of California, and California Community College systems, and creating a state digital open source library to house the texts.

You won’t find an college store named Rafter, Akadémos, or Neebo, but these companies have been reshaping the landscape of textbook buying, renting, and more.

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