College Textbooks: The Need For a New Approach

Posted by Nicole Cimo on August 19, 2015

Since 1978, college textbook prices have grown 945%, increasing 3.5x times faster than the Consumer Price Index. Administrators, faculty, and students are increasingly concerned about the escalating cost of textbooks. Colleges are now searching for new solutions to lower costs and support their core mission of educating students.


Recent studies have shown that many students are opting not to buy textbooks for at least one of their courses due to these high prices, leading to students being less prepared for class, and negatively impacting their academic performance. Left unchecked, these factors may undermine the fundamental mission of many colleges and universities.

According to Naomi Baron, Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University, faculty members and students are in a predicament over how to handle high textbook costs. In her recent article, A Smarter Approach to College Textbooks, she goes deep into this concern, as well as spotlights how students are opting to do away with purchasing or renting textbooks all together.

The article also makes some interesting suggestions on how to start addressing these issues, and the need for collaboration across faculty, students, administrators, and textbook publishers. We also think that the college bookstore service should play a key role in driving this collaboration across all campus stakeholders, and facilitating a win-win solution for each institution.

The good news for students is that many institutions across the country have acknowledged that solving the challenge of providing affordable textbooks is a key priority. In fact, a growing number of institutions have already taken action and are starting to see positive results in saving students money, improving bookstore utilization, and increasing student satisfaction. To learn more about best practices these institutions have implemented, download any of our free white papers or register today for a personalized 1:1 discussion


Pratt Institute to Launch Akademos Online Bookstore

Posted by Jonathan Shar on August 11, 2015

New York’s prestigious Pratt Institute partners with Akademos to deliver students significant discounts on course materials

We are pleased to announce that Pratt Institute, a renowned New York City-based college that educates creative thinkers from around the world, has joined our rapidly growing list of partner schools.


Image source: www.pratt.edu

Beginning this fall, Pratt students can shop for more affordable books in different formats, including new, used, rental, or eBook. Orders can be placed at any time through the new customized online bookstore and marketplace at pratt.bookstore.edu. With Akademos’ mobile online shopping platform, students can save an average of 30 - 40 percent on the cost of their course materials and receive unparalleled convenience.

“We believe that our new partnership with Akademos will deliver an online bookstore solution that will greatly benefit Pratt students and faculty,” said Cathleen Kenny, vice president of finance and administration at Pratt Institute. “Akademos’ online Marketplace aligns with our students’ demand for competitively priced textbooks, and their innovative faculty resource tools and account management services will improve the efficiency of our textbook adoption process.”

“We look forward to partnering with Pratt Institute,” said Akademos Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “Our mission is singularly focused on providing the highest quality customized virtual bookstore services for colleges and universities across the country and we are thrilled to be working with Pratt to power its online storefront and to reduce costs and drive value for its students.”

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students and our online bookstore offerings for educational institutions, visit www.akademos.com.

How Colleges Bookstores Can Thrive With The New Hybrid Bookstore Model – Exclusive White Paper Now Available

Posted by Jonathan Shar on July 29, 2015

The New Hybrid College Bookstore Model White Paper was released today and is now available for download. 

This exclusive report provides key learning on how institutions are successfully implementing a low-cost online bookstore offering, while building a best-in-class on-campus shop.


Download The New Hybrid College Bookstore Model White Paper today - available at no charge.

For many institutions, the college bookstore is an integral part of the campus experience, but maintaining a vibrant retail shop has become increasingly challenging as competition from online, third-party providers has intensified and students are leaving the school-sanctioned bookstore in search of better pricing on their textbooks and course materials.

This new White Paper is a must read for administrators who are critically evaluating their current bookstore model and considering new approaches. Learn how college bookstores can win back students, thrive in the future - and review key steps for establishing this new model, including:

  • Creating a vision for a new store strategy
  • Online service requirements
  • New potential services
  • Revenue-generating product ideas
  • Managing the transition

Click Here to Download the Exclusive White Paper


Topics: Resource Download

The Dawn of the $400 Textbook and Helping College Students Fight These Costs

Posted by Kirk Bodick on July 28, 2015

Mark Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus. Over the past few years, he has written a number of interesting articles tracking the alarming rise of college textbook prices.  His latest article, published this week, disects the era of $400 textbooks and lists the 15 most expensive textbooks at the University of Michigan-Flint.  Here’s the link to his post:


In this article, Mr. Perry updates charts illustrating how the cost of college textbooks is outpacing the national Consumer Price Index as well as recreational book prices:


Also included is a price chart listing the top 15 most expensive textbooks at the University of Michigan-Flint. This had me thinking – I wonder how Akademos’ prices compared to the UM-Flint’s bookstore prices?  We conducted a price comparison of the article’s price chart against our published student prices on our TextbookX.com website and the results were dramatic per the chart below:


There was also significant savings on our used rental books -  $1,543.15 or 29%!

Rising textbook costs impact everyone in the academic chain:

  • Students - who can’t afford to pay for texts so they go without, impacting academic performance
  • Faculty - who have students come to class ill-prepared and slow down the teaching process
  • Administrators - who are fighting shrinking budgets and count on student success and bookstore sales in their funding formulas

Akademos’ Online Bookstore Services can partner with colleges and universities to provide innovative and unique solutions to help keep textbook costs low. We also provide services designed to provide tools for faculty to procure alternative lower cost course materials.

For example, one way faculty can fight this runaway textbook price train is by using Open Education Resources such as the OpenStax College books and customized CoursePacks that contain quality teaching content, yet are free or at a greatly reduced cost to students. 

Our free Textbook Adoption Tool (adoption.akademos.com) allows faculty to choose from over 2 million titles across 3,600 topics, makes it easy to compare different formats, includes an affordability index for each title, and provides the opportunity to easily discover open source content. This empowers faculty to make better-informed decisions about content and their impact on course material costs, while preserving academic freedom.

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students, our online bookstore services for colleges and universities, and to see how the Akademos solution can work for your institution, register today for a personalized 1:1 consultation

Click here to register for a 1:1 consultation 

Topics: Insider

Research Finds Strong Correlation Between Textbook Affordability Programs and College Student Satisfaction

Posted by Jonathan Shar on July 22, 2015

According to research results highlighted in The 2015 survey of College Presidents, Provosts and CAOs on the Future of Bookstore Services and Textbook Delivery White Papercreating a formalized textbook affordability program is the key to unlocking student and faculty satisfaction. 


One of the most important insights from our 2015 survey of College Presidents, Provosts and CAOs on the Future of Bookstore Services and Textbook Delivery is that having a formal program to help faculty select high-quality, low-cost course materials directly correlates with higher student and faculty satisfaction. However, only 21% of institutions in the survey reported that they have a formal program.

This piece of data should be very actionable for most institutions and does not require a major investment or implementation of complex technology. Our new white paper includes some best practices for textbook affordability programs so that every institution can start the process of implementing a program for their campus. 

Click here to download the survey results white paper

The Impact of Textbook Costs on Student Retention (According to College Presidents and Provosts)

Posted by Jonathan Shar on July 20, 2015

In our 2015 survey of College Presidents, Provosts and CAOs on the Future of Bookstore Services and Textbook Delivery, we asked participants to weigh in on how the exorbitant cost of textbooks are affecting student outcomes. 

The majority (91%) of respondents agreed that the high cost of textbooks and course materials is having a negative impact on student retention, persistence, and completion.

retentionCAOSource: Akademos


  • 97% of 2-Year Public Institutions in the survey indicated that textbook costs negatively impacted retention and persistence, including 45% stating “Very Much”
  • 94% of Presidents in the survey indicated that textbook costs negatively impacted retention and persistence, including 37% stating “Very Much”

To learn what tactics higher education leaders are using to address this challenge and to view other key trends and predictions, download the College President, Provost and CAO Survey White Paper on the Future of Bookstore Services and Textbook Delivery today, available free of charge. 

Click here to download the survey results white paper  


New White Paper: 2015 College President, Provost and CAO Survey on the Future of Bookstore Services and Textbook Delivery

Posted by Jonathan Shar on July 7, 2015

Survey results highlight a significant gap between institutions recognizing the problem of textbook affordability and those taking action to implement change.  

In 2013, Akademos conducted the first comprehensive survey of College and University Presidents, Provosts, and CAOs focusing on textbook delivery, costs, and bookstore services. The just-released 2015 follow up survey reveals a rich set of data points, key trends and insight into the challenges and opportunities facing institutions regarding escalating textbook prices and their impact across all campus stakeholder groups.


Click here to download

Results show that as textbook prices continue to climb, college CAOs have seen the challenges in delivery and bookstore services accelerate, including the following key findings:

  • 91% of administrators reported that high textbook costs negatively impact retention and persistence
  • High textbook prices are driving a significant number (81%) of students to shop for books outside of the school-sanctioned store
  • Student and faculty satisfaction with textbook prices remain extremely low
  • 85% of respondents reported that they were involved in a textbook affordability strategy at their institution, but only 21% reported having a formal program to help faculty select high quality, low cost course materials, which is a driver of higher student and faculty satisfaction. 

Administrators are being forced to take a critical look at their current bookstore model in an effort to keep up with the demands required to serve student needs and improve student outcomes. Institutions that have formal textbook affordability programs report significantly higher levels of student and faculty satisfaction with regard to textbook costs.


We believe this data should be very actionable for most institutions and that the time to act is now.  It is encouraging to see that institutions with active textbook affordability programs have seen positive results. We hope this White Paper will spur institutions across the country to critically evaluate their textbook and delivery services for the future.

Click here to download the survey results white paper

The White Paper is available at no charge.  After reviewing, if you have any questions about the survey results we would be delighted to discuss in further detail.  

Topics: Resource Download

From Brick and Mortar to a New Hybrid Bookstore Model

Posted by Jonathan Shar on June 25, 2015

This article was originally published on the National Association of College and Auxiliary Services (NACAS) website on June 4, 2015 (http://collegeservices.nacas.org/from-brick-and-mortar-to-digital).

From brick and mortar to digital

Author: Derrick Singleton, Vice President of Operations & Sustainability at Berea College

Because it is an endowment-driven institution, Berea College’s commitment to serve its student population through the no-tuition promise drives a sense of urgency to be excellent financial stewards and caring service providers— our decision to embrace technology and move to a new hybrid model for our college bookstore enhances our ability to be both.


Berea College is a unique institution. One of just seven federally recognized Work Colleges in the U.S., Berea provides a no-cost tuition scholarship for all 1,600 students who are required to work at least 10 hours per week. With an emphasis on service to the people of Appalachia and beyond, only academically promising students with very limited economic means are eligible to enroll. Because it is an endowment-driven institution, the college’s commitment to serve its student population through the no-tuition promise drives a sense of urgency to be excellent financial stewards and caring service providers— our decision to embrace technology and move to a new hybrid model for our college bookstore enhances our ability to be both.

Financial Considerations

The financial performance of our college bookstore had been steadily declining since 2008, but had accelerated downward 22 percent in gross sales just since 2012. As we performed a deeper analysis around store operations as part of a Lean Continuous Improvement project, we recognized our “sell-through” ratio (total books sold compared to the total that could have been sold if each student enrolled in each class bought each adopted textbook) had also dropped precipitously over the same time period.

In discussions with student focus groups, it was clear the reason was market forces—our bookstore was simply not competitive in comparison to the online options available to students. In addition, the store did not attract significant foot traffic from outside the college community for ancillary sales, requiring it to rely predominantly on the student population. However, the financial demographic of the students we serve pro-vides a headwind that prevents sufficient margins on sales of spirit wear, personal expression merchandise, etc., without significant price in-creases that would run counter to our mission of providing the most affordable education possible for our students.

The Plan of Action

As a result of our research and discussions, we have embraced technology as a key component of a two-phased move from a traditional bookstore model. Our new approach is a hybrid model: part digital, part brick and mortar. In phase one, we partnered with Akademos, an online provider of textbooks, and migrated all textbooks sales online to a digital store. In phase two, we merged our existing store with the college’s visitor center and SCOTS, an outlet of the college’s famed student-made crafts.

The goal of the new combined brick-and-mortar model is to create a “one-stop shop” for visitors to experience Berea College and all it has to offer—something possible in the past, but requiring visits to three different locations on campus. The new model allows obvious synergies for better cost effectiveness, as staff for sales and back-of-house functions can be shared; that wasn’t possible before with three separate functions operating in three distinct locations.

However, the exciting opportunity arising with this new approach is that it allows us to better introduce visitors to the opportunity to share in the college’s transformative mission. This will be done through interpretive historical displays and audio/visual kiosks that tell the unique history of the college, the freedom to directly interact with student artisans who can share firsthand the transformative impact of the mission of the college, and shopping for Berea College themed merchandise, regional trade books, and hand-made crafts.

Reversing the Trends

We experienced minor bumps in the road as might be expected—such as a sense of loss with some faculty of an intellectual space where one is surrounded by books, as well as limited availability issues for some unique Humanities readings, and with students buying after classes began or from less accountable providers. However, we have been pleased with our decision to move textbook sales online with our partner, and we believe the positives outweigh the bumps. In the two semesters since we made the move to migrate all textbook sales online, our textbook sell-through ratio improved from just 46 percent in the 2013-14 year to 66 percent in the 2014-15 year. More importantly to our mission of serving students of great promise and limited economic resources, our average overall (new and used) cost of textbooks to students was 43 percent lower than the last available NACS reported average (used textbooks only). The new digital bookstore model also offers better support and consumer protection for our students in comparison to buying online on their own with unknown and varied quality. With more textbooks now being sold by capitalizing on technology in our digital bookstore—and most importantly for us, with those books being sold at a lower price for our students—we are confident the decision to embrace the emerging trends offered through technology was the correct one.

About the Author: Derrick Singleton
Derrick Singleton is vice president of operations & sustainability at Berea College. Among other areas, his responsibilities include oversight of campus auxiliary businesses and services. He is a chemical engineer with an MBA and earned degrees from Eastern Kentucky University, Sullivan University, and the University of Kentucky.


Northshore Technical Community College Adopts Akademos’ Online Bookstore

Posted by Jonathan Shar on June 22, 2015

In an effort to increase textbook affordability for its students, Northshore Technical Community College partners with Akademos, an online bookstore provider dedicated to supporting student success.


We are pleased to announce that Northshore Technical Community College has joined our fast growing list of partner schools. Northshore Technical Community College is a member of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), an organization that provides strategic management and support for Louisiana's 13 community and technical colleges.

Beginning this fall, Northshore Technical Community College students can shop for textbooks in the format of their choice across new, used, rental or eBook options and place orders anytime, anywhere through the mobile optimized online bookstore and marketplace. With Akademos’ best-in-class online shopping platform, students will now be able to complete their entire textbook ordering for a term in one stop, saving 30%-40% on their course materials.

“I am pleased to welcome Northshore Technical Community College to Akademos,” said Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “We look forward to applying our vast experience serving college students and institutions across the country to deliver an innovative online bookstore service and course materials platform for Northshore Technical Community College students, faculty, and administrators.”

“The faculty, staff, and administration of Northshore Technical Community College are committed to the success of our students—and textbook affordability is key to that success,” said Chancellor William S. Wainwright, Ph.D. “Similar to many community colleges, we have seen that the high cost of textbooks is an obstacle to our student’s completion and persistence. With Akademos’ online bookstore, our students will enjoy a seamless shopping experience with competitively priced textbooks needed to complete their education.”

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students and Akademos’ online bookstore offerings for educational institutions, visit www.akademos.com.

2015 CFO Survey on Bookstore Services: Exclusive White Paper Report Now Available for Download

Posted by Jonathan Shar on June 17, 2015

Textbook delivery and bookstore services have become a prominent issue for college and university CFOs, likely due in part to increasing attention to the rising cost of textbooks from students, their families, accreditation committees, and state governments.

The question remains, can the competitive and technical challenges of serving student needs and improving student outcomes be met by the current on-campus bookstore model, particularly in an increasingly online world? 

To better understand the scope of this issue, we are excited to release the results of our 2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services in this exclusive report.

Click here to download

Highlights of the survey include CFOs reporting that:

  • Students are increasingly turning away from campus-based bookstores in favor of third-party providers (93% confirmed this trend).
  • Access to high-quality, low-cost textbooks is the most important service institutions can provide regarding the sale of textbooks.
  • 96% stated that textbook costs are impacting student retention and persistence 
  • Nearly all respondents indicated that textbook sales have been flat or down over the past three years.
  • Plus, much more

For a copy of the 2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services White Paper, go to http://info.akademos.com/cfo-survey-white-paper-2015 or click the button below. This White Paper is available at no charge.

CFO Survey White Paper Download

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students, our online bookstore services for colleges and universities, and to see how the Akademos solution can work for your institution, register today for a personalized 1:1 consultation.

Topics: Resource Download


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