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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Webinars & Events

Graduate School USA Adopts Akademos Online Bookstore Solution

Posted by Jonathan Shar on June 1, 2015

Graduate School USA joins with Akademos to deliver its students significant discounts on course materials and to utilize the new Akademos CoursePack Creator tool.

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We are pleased to announce that  Graduate  School  USA has  joined  our  growing  list  of  customer schools. Graduate School USA is a private, non-profit educational institution headquartered in Washington, DC. Effective immediately, Graduate School USA will take advantage of Akademos’ ability to lower course  material  costs  for  students  and  utilize  its best-in-class  CoursePack  Creator  tool.

The CoursePack  Creator  is  an  enhanced  web-based  tool  that  allows  instructors  to  create  cost-effective,  custom  compilations  of  academic  materials.  Features  of  this  easy-to-use  solution include:

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface to organize chapters  
  • Blending of both publisher and instructor-created content  
  • All copyrights and clearances handled by Akademos  
  • Low cost print-on-demand copies with no required minimum order size

“Graduate  School  USA  strives  to  maintain  up-to-date  curricula  that  allow  learners  to  remain current  at  every  stage  of  their  career  and  personal  development,”  said  Elaine  Ryan,  Interim President of Graduate School USA. “Working with Akademos will give faculty the power to use and   create  affordable  customized,  course-specific  learning  materials,  while  providing  high quality educational content at a great value for our students.”

“We are pleased to welcome Graduate School USA to Akademos,” said Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “We are committed to providing this institution with the course materials needed to remain a leader in public sector education, workforce development, and training.”

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook and course material options for students and our online bookstore offerings for educational institutions, visit www.akademos.com or to set up a 1:1 discussion by clicking on the link below.

  Register now for a 1:1 consultation

Topics: Company News

Mary Baldwin College Launches Online Bookstore to Deliver Students Significant Discounts on Course Materials 

Posted by Jonathan Shar on May 26, 2015

Mary Baldwin partners with Akademos to improve student success and increase textbook affordability, becoming the third Council of Independent Colleges member in Virginia to move to the Akademos solution within the last 12 months.

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We are pleased to announce that Mary Baldwin College, a private liberal arts college in Staunton Virginia, has joined our rapidly growing list of partner schools. Mary Baldwin joins Roanoke College and Bridgewater College as the third Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) member institution in Virginia to adopt the student savings Akademos platform within the last 12 months. 

Starting in Fall 2015, Mary Baldwin College students can shop for textbooks and course materials in the money saving format of their choice and place orders anytime, anywhere through the mobile optimized online bookstore and marketplace. 

“We are confident that Akademos’ online bookstore platform is the right choice to connect Mary Baldwin students with the course materials they need to thrive academically,” said Crista Cabe, Vice President for Communication, Marketing, and Public Affairs at Mary Baldwin College. “Students will get the right textbooks, at the most competitive prices, and on time.” Mary Baldwin students will be able to order their course materials through the new school-sanctioned online bookstore and seamlessly choose between New, Used, Marketplace, Rental and eBook options, dramatically expanding their access to lower cost textbooks. At the end of each term students will have the option to sell back their textbooks through the Akademos peer-to-peer marketplace to recoup some of their cost. 

“I am pleased to welcome Mary Baldwin College to Akademos and look forward to teaming with students, faculty, and administrators to lower the cost of course materials, enhance textbook adoption efficiencies, and ultimately to achieve our mutual goal of improving learning outcomes for students,” said Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “Our solution will encourage students to use the school-sanctioned bookstore website by offering competitively priced textbooks and a mobile-optimized easy to use shopping experience.”

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students and the Akademos’ virtual bookstore offering, visit www.akademos.com. To see how the Akademos solution can work for your institution, register today for a personalized 1:1 consultation

About Mary Baldwin College
Mary Baldwin empowers leaders to pursue lives of purpose in a changing world. As a distinctive small university committed to its rich heritage as an inclusive, women-centered liberal arts college, Mary Baldwin fulfills its mission by providing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to a diverse population of women and men. It emphasizes high ethical standards and the development of critical, creative, and reflective reasoning as the foundation for fulfilling, engaged, and meaningful lives.

Topics: Company News

CUNY School of Law to Launch Akademos’ Online Bookstore Solution

Posted by Jonathan Shar on May 18, 2015

We are pleased to announce that the CUNY School of Law has joined our growing list of partner schools. The School of Law, along with Medgar Evers College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, becomes the third City University of New York (CUNY) Institution to adopt the Akademos value focused bookstore solution within the last year.

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Starting in Fall 2015, CUNY School of Law students can shop for textbooks and course materials in the money saving format of their choice and place orders anytime, anywhere through a mobile optimized online bookstore and marketplace.

The new online bookstore will accept the CUNY Scholar card, enabling students to seamlessly apply financial aid toward their purchases. With the deep SIS integration and a best-in-class online shopping experience, students will now be able to complete their course material ordering for a term in less than 5 minutes.

“We believe Akademos will best serve our students and faculty,” said Glenn Kaufhold, Chief Operating Officer of CUNY School of Law. “The Akademos online bookstore is built to meet the demand for competitively priced textbooks, and their innovative faculty resources will create much needed efficiencies in our course material adoption process. As an added benefit, moving to an online bookstore will allow us the opportunity to repurpose our existing bookstore space to better serve our students.”

“I am pleased to welcome CUNY School of Law to Akademos,” said Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “We are excited for students to experience our new store design and mobile-optimized shopping experience. Our commitment to continuous innovation around the concepts of value and ease of use will provide outstanding service for CUNY School of Law students, faculty and administrators alike.”

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

About CUNY Law School
The City University School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. It trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. Our motto, "law in the service of human needs," infuses everything we do.

About Akademos
Akademos offers virtual bookstore services, eLearning solutions, and an innovative textbook marketplace to schools. Its comprehensive supply-chain solution and commitment to responsive personal service make Akademos a leader in providing affordable textbooks and digital learning tools for schools. Students can choose from new, used, rental, and eBook options while schools can reduce costs and increase operating efficiency. Faculty can search, discover, and adopt new texts using the Akademos Textbook Adoption Tool at http://www.adoption.akademos.com. Akademos delivers the right course materials, at affordable prices, on time. Learn more about Akademos' direct-to-students ecommerce platform at http://www.textbookx.com and its offerings to partner schools at http://www.akademos.com.
 

The Impact of Textbook Costs on Student Retention and Persistence

Posted by Jonathan Shar on May 13, 2015

 
“Colleges are scrutinized more than ever before over student outcomes”
Robert Pignatello, SVP of Finance and Administration at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The focus on student retention and persistence is growing in importance to college administrators as they try to improve graduation rates and decrease the loss of tuition revenue from students that either drop out or transfer to another school. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Center for Education Statistics, only 50% of those who enter higher education actually earn a bachelors degree. The reasons range from family problems and loneliness to academic struggles - and as the total cost of eduction has increased in the US, so has student attrition. 

In the 2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Affordability and Bookstore Services, we asked participants if the increasing prices of textbooks played a role in student persistence and retention on their campus.  

96% of respondents indicated that the high cost of textbooks and course materials had an impact on student retention and persistence. This is up 8% from the study published in 2013, with respondants stating “Very Much” increasing by 13% in just two years. 

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Source: CFO survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services. Akademos, 2015.

The study indicates that reducing textbook costs can not only have a positve impact on student satisfaction, but may have a significant financial impact for colleges and universities by helping improve student completion and retaining more tution revenue.

“This was a big factor for us in terms of convincing our faculty to abandon the traditional brick and mortar store and move to a virtual (student savings) format," Pignatello noted on the webinar.  

To learn more about key trends and predictions on the future of textbook sales and campus bookstore services, the full presentation and recording of our "2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Affordability and Bookstore Services” webinar session is now available for free download. 

Click here to request webinar materials

Why Textbook Rentals Are On The Rise

Posted by Jonathan Shar on May 11, 2015

Two years ago, Akademos published the first comprehensive survey of College CFOs regarding the future of college bookstore and textbook services and in an exclusive webinar held on April 29, released the preliminary findings of the 2015 follow-up study.

In both, participants were asked to estimate the breakdown of their bookstore's textbook sales.

The latest survey found that on average, new books still represent the largest % of textbook sales; however in just two years this percentage has declined significantly (now 38%, down from 52%) - with Rentals growing by more than 60% (from 14% to 23% in 2015).

rental_compSource: CFO Survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services. Akademos, 2015. 

In addition, in another survey question when asked about the importance various services to the "Future of your Bookstore"; 73% rated Rentals as "Very Important," up 26% from the 2013 study.

Textbook Rentals are clearly on the rise, but why and is it the most cost-conscious choice for students? Robert Pignatello, SVP of finance and Administration at CUNY’s John Jay college and Akademos CEO John Squires addressed this topic during the webinar.

“The net ownership cost of textbooks is a key consideration,” commented Squires.“Often, rentals have a lower up-front cost to the student but can be more expensive long term.”

Pignatello agreed, saying “we [college administrators] have an obligation to look at the total cost of ownership, and to help our students make the right choice. Often times, buying a used book and selling it will cost less than renting.” 

To learn more about key trends and predictions on the future of textbook sales and campus bookstore services, the full presentation and recording of our "2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Affordability and Bookstore Services” webinar session is now available for free download. 

Click here to request webinar materials

Why Campus Bookstore Textbook Sales Continue to Decline (According to College CFOs)

Posted by Jonathan Shar on May 7, 2015

Two years ago, Akademos published the first comprehensive survey of college CFOs regarding the future of college bookstore and textbook services - and in an exclusive webinar held on April 29, released the highlights of the eagarly aniticpated 2015 follow-up study

In both surveys,participants were asked to estimate the trend line in their bookstore's textbook sales over the past 3 years.

In the latest survey, 91% of respondents indicated textbook sales have been flat or down over the past three years and in just two years there was a 36% increase in CFOs reporting declines of more than 10%. 

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Source: CFO survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services. Akademos, 2015. 

the survey data reviewed during the webinar provides some valuable insight into why sales declines have accelerated and why they are likely to continue to decline in the future. 

Robert Pignatello, SVP of finance and Administration at CUNY’s John Jay College shared some valuable insights on this topic as one of the featured speakers during the webinar and commented on his own expereince and observations:   

"We started to think about providing low-cost options to students and re-thinking the traditional way of viewing the college store," recalls Pignatello. We began to build up other areas of revenue producing activity at the college, knowing this trend was going to continue. In a few short years we saw [textbook sales] go down by 50%, and it continued to go down."

To learn more about key trends and predictions on the future of textbook sales and campus bookstore services, the full presentation and recording of our "2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Affordability and Bookstore Services” webinar session is now available for free download.
 
Click here to request webinar materials

2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Services: Webinar Recap and Materials Available

Posted by Jonathan Shar on April 30, 2015

Yesterday we were joined by Robert Pignatello, SVP Finance and Administration at CUNY’s John Jay College and John Squires, CEO of Akademos for an informative and lively "2015 College CFO Survey on Textbook Affordability and Bookstore Services” Webinar. If you were unable to join us for this discussion we wanted to make the presentation and recording of the session available for you to download free by clicking here.

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The feedback from attendees has been extremely positive.  Most participants found the survey results and commentary on the trends and future of textbook services extremely relevant and informative.

Three years ago Akademos completed the first comprehensive survey of college CFOs regarding the future of bookstore services and this informative webinar provided a first look at the results of the just completed follow-up study addressing critical issues and key trends, including:  

  • Trends in campus bookstore textbook sales
  • The percentage of students leaving their school-sanctioned bookstore and why
  • The number of students not purchasing required materials and why
  • The impact of textbook costs on student success, persistence and retention
  • How bookstore services need to change to meet the demands for new learning models

See how these and other important questions begin to be addressed in this special webinar.

Click here to request webinar materials

If you have any other questions or would like to learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for your students and our innovative textbook and course materials adoption tools for faculty and administrators, we would be happy to set-up a personalized 1:1 consultation today.

Topics: Webinars & Events

 

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