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John Squires

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What we can learn from UMass Amherst’s decision to select Amazon as its bookstore provider

Posted by John Squires on January 14, 2015

This week the University of Massachusetts’ flagship Amherst campus selected Amazon to provide textbooks and other learning materials for students beginning this fall.

This is a bold move from a major university. It recognizes that textbooks are a major and increasing expense for students, adding to the already growing problem of student debt. If these rising costs are not quickly addressed this will ultimately have a material impact on student performance and retention.

It also recognizes today’s students demand for transparency, value and convenience with everything they purchase. They want to know that they are buying the right product, at the right price, and want to place their order quickly, across any device, at any time.

There are few companies in the college bookstore business that focus on student value and we are delighted to welcome Amazon to this list. We think this development should raise the question of student value and service for every college administrator who faces mounting student complaints about the cost of their learning materials and is concerned about their bookstore sales declining.

We are delighted to see UMass at the forefront of this movement. Similar to forward thinking Akademos partners like the City Colleges of Chicago, Davenport University and John Jay College, UMass understands that students are already moving online to seek value and in order to align the goals of the institution, they needed to pick an innovative bookstore provider to meet the future needs of its students.

Here are a few specifics of what colleges can learn from the UMass decision:

  • UMass has chosen to view providing textbooks and course materials as a core service to its students, opting to take only a small commission of 2.5% on sales. This is a welcome development in a market where school commissions can often run above 10%, directly contributing to the increasing cost of books for students. UMass has prioritized the success of its students over retail profits.
  • The college separated the sale of merchandise and apparel from the sale of textbooks. Students will not be forced to pay steep prices for books to support the sale of other materials on campus.

Here are other important factors for colleges and universities to consider, based upon our 15 years of providing high-quality service to students across the country –

  • State of the art textbook adoption tools and a customer service staff that can provide personalized solutions to faculty on book selections and course material fulfillment is a critical component of the successful bookstore operation of the future.
  • Faculty having access to the full electronic catalog of learning products from publishers is also important. As instructional labs and testing resources build online it’s critical that the library of products for any bookstore moves well beyond the textbook.
  • Seamless financial aid integration is a must. Combining an easy to use, customized shopping experience for students with financial aid is the winning formula to bring students back to a school sanctioned bookstore website and purchasing all their course materials in a timely manner.

We think this is a wonderful development for higher education. It is squarely a student-focused decision and any institution that follows this lead, whether with Amazon, Akademos, or another like company, will be putting the needs of educating students first. In the end, this is good for education and great for companies like Akademos that focus single-mindedly on reducing costs for students and improving service for educators.

To learn more about expanding affordable textbook options for students at your school we would be happy to set-up a personalized 1:1 consultation.

Topics: Commentary

Webinar: Supercharge Student Engagement Through Mobile Platforms

Posted by John Squires on September 15, 2014

Update: If you missed this webinar, email us at webinar@akademos.com to view a recorded version of the presentation.

Akademos is pleased to announce the first in a monthly series of webinars. For our September webinar, we're partnering with Top Hat to share practical tips on how to leverage current mobile platform trends to improve instruction and student shopping services. We hope you can join us!

Live Webinar: Wednesday, September 24 at 1:00 pm EDT

In this webinar, see how to:

  • Engage students with innovative mobile platforms
  • Meet expectations of the BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) generation
  • Explore trends in the changing textbook and bookstore services marketplace
  • Deliver a superior mobile shopping experience for students

Featured speakers: 

  • John Squires, CEO, Akademos
  • Mike Silagadze, CEO, Top Hat
  • Naseem Saloojee, VP of Business Development, Top Hat

Topics: Webinars & Events, New Bookstore Models

In Case You Missed It: NACUBO Session Wrap-Up

Posted by John Squires on July 24, 2014

On Tuesday, we lead a NACUBO discussion with an audience of college CFOs regarding the future of online college bookstores.

Jaye Lynn Bergers, Director of Bookstores and Merchandising Operations at Davenport University, joined us to share her experience with implementing a “marketplace model” to deliver cost savings and a seamless online shopping experience for students.

In just five months after launching an online bookstore, Davenport students have saved close to $1,000,000 on textbooks and course materials. How did they achieve this success?

What are some steps your school can take to go beyond the brick and mortar bookstore?

View the step by step guide from our NACUBO presentation:

Key Considerations for Implementing an Online Bookstore

Infographic-Du_final-22

Topics: Webinars & Events

Coming Soon to NACUBO: How to Implement a Bookstore 'Marketplace' Model

Posted by John Squires on July 17, 2014

The Akademos team is on the road again. This time, we're headed to present a breakout session and exhibit at  NACUBO 2014 in Seattle. Be sure to stop by booth #1100 or set up a custom demo.

We hope you can join us for our presentation Implementing a Bookstore 'Marketplace' Model on Tuesday, July 22 at 9:45 AM.

Session Overview: 

We have all witnessed how third-party retail web sites have changed the way students shop for textbooks. Marketplaces, made popular by e-commerce sites such as Amazon, connect third-party sellers with consumers, usually at a lower cost to the consumer. Institutions that can implement this model, including processing financial aid payments, can gain a competitive edge in the textbook business without passing increasing costs on to their students.

In this session, you will learn practical steps to leverage the marketplace shopping trend, and ultimately, how to drive traffic back to your school-sanctioned bookstore. Discover how two institutions applied the 'marketplace' model to their bookstores with the goals of improving student satisfaction and recapturing lost consumers.

Featured Speakers:

Joining us will be representatives from two of our partner schools: JayeLynn Bergers, Director of Bookstores and Merchandising Operations at Davenport University and Labouré College's CFO Mark Virello.

Mark your Calendar!

Registered for NACUBO?  Don't forget to add this session to your virtual agenda. See you in Seattle!

Topics: Webinars & Events, New Bookstore Models

Lower the Cost of College Operations or Else: Ideas on Preparing for Digital Textbook Delivery

Posted by John Squires on June 25, 2014

The higher education conference season is in full effect. I attended an ed tech conference called UBTech held by University Business magazine earlier this month in Orlando, Florida. This was my first time attending UBTech, having formerly mainly focused on the CampusTech conference. UBTech had a good mix of college and university chief technology officers, chief information officers, chief financial officers, and similar roles. It also attracted ed tech companies, textbook publishers, bookstore services providers, and other organizations in the industry.

A central theme in Orlando this year was reducing college operating costs to manage net revenue. Speakers called out that the higher education business model and delivery system appears broken. Particularly at those institutions that are struggling with revenue generation. Why do we continue to push a traditional college delivery model in areas where technology is clearly positioned to disrupt (yes, it is overused, but you get the idea) business-as-usual? For my part, I spoke at a session about trends in bookstore services and textbook delivery. My session attracted a diverse mix of college CTOs, CIOs and CFOs, as well as publishers, our textbook rental partners CampusBookRentals, and some friendly competition by way of bookstore service operators like Follett and Rafter.

The data I presented contrasted how college technology officers and financial officers see the future of the college bookstore. For example, while only 18% of college business officers in our textbook delivery survey stated college bookstores will sell textbooks completely via their online store, 95% of college technology officers we (more informally) surveyed at UBTech see the future of textbooks as delivered completely in an online bookstore. Now, given we were at a tech conference, I am not surprised. But the technology folks also noted they are 'not so much' involved in decisions about the bookstore. Which leads me to the question, Why are our CTOs and CIOs not more involved in the selection of bookstore service operators and strategies?

I usually approach conferences as an opportunity to listen. I might come prepared with a leading question or a thesis I am trying to get feedback on. This year, it was definitely about asking how involved college CTOs and CIOs are in textbook delivery and bookstore services. But also, and perhaps more nuanced, how much do they want to be involved, to be included in the textbook dialogue?

Those that attended our UBTech session were self-selected in that they chose to attend a session about bookstore services, so with that, are telling us they want to be more involved. But overall at the conference, most tech folks I spoke with shared that they were somewhat neutral on the topic of bookstore services. But they were quick to offer that online delivery is the way to go. In my session’s group discussion, the majority of schools shared that they have brick-and-mortar components to their textbook sales process. They also said that one of the biggest drivers to building out bookstores in the future is the eventual adoption of digital texts by students and faculty. Our contemporary at Follett estimated that number at an average of 10%, while Rafter and CampusBookRenters had less information on digital text adoption, likely because the rental market focuses more on physical textbook delivery. Everyone from vendors to schools agreed that eTextbook adoption was doubling each year, though still at small numbers.

But if eBook adoption is doubling year-over-year at colleges, when eTextbooks do indeed reach the tipping point, the mass adoption of digital texts by college students will happen "fast and furiously" (to quote the keynote speaker...more on that in a minute). The colleges and universities in my session said this was one of their biggest concerns—they want to be prepared when 'digital happens.' So while competition by third party sites selling textbooks (such as Amazon) was a dominant concern for CFOs, digital textbook adoption was the clear driving issue for our information technology officers.

Now on to that keynote address I mentioned. The opening keynote was delivered by Gene Wade, co-founder and CEO of UniversityNow, was well received. I’d heard of UniversityNow before but didn't really know what they did. Here is the gist:

  • UniversityNow identify themselves as a social venture whose mission it is to ensure that a quality higher education is available to people everywhere. They manage Patten University and New Charter University, both online institutions serving predominantly working adults and offering course delivery within a somewhat new paradigm. For example, one set of instructors teaches you, while a different set grades you (anonymously). Tuition is based on how long it takes to complete your program (typically about 2-3K a semester for as many classes as you can muster). Learning is self-paced. Exams aren't "unlocked" until students can show within the LMS that they have mastered the skill sets needed to pass them. Classes are held completely online. Course materials are digital.
  • Mr. Wade shared that MOOCs have made going to school online "sexier," but that they are not addressing the market need (eg., a call center employee who is getting left behind because he or she does not have a bachelor's degree; and needs a convenient, affordable degree that represents key learning competencies learned). According to the speaker, UniversityNow's flagship school, Patten University, costs 11x less than a 4-year private school. At some schools, cost of operation, of delivery, is higher than net tuition coming in. His point was that we need to lower the cost of delivery or else.
  • His most powerful message? That five years from now, most colleges and universities will be dealing with "the wreckage." Schools like UniversityNow are happening (as its namesake suggests) now. His metaphor...the rest of world will go straight to cell phones while 'old schools' will be dealing with their outdated land-line systems. And, of course, what is that cost of that?

If college bookstore administrators want to be ready for the move to online textbook delivery, they might consider the parallels of planning for online course delivery. The MOOCs and SOOCs are indeed coming. If schools can equate online course delivery with online textbook delivery, and maybe capitalize on the popularity (and hysteria) of MOOCs in order to frame the strategies for digital textbook delivery, we think they can be well prepared to build an innovative yet practical vision for the college bookstore of the future.

UBTech_2013_logo

Topics: Webinars & Events, Commentary

Laboure College's use of Akademos Virtual Bookstore Featured in Business Officer Magazine

Posted by John Squires on May 29, 2014

A recently published article in the May issue of Business Officer Magazine (“Livening Up the Shelves,” by Apryl Motley) profiles three institutions who have found innovative content delivery methods— online and on campus— to stock their bookstore shelves:

  • Labouré College, Massachusetts: Six years ago, they partnered with Akademos and became “early adopters” of the online bookstore.  Today, they have managed to buck the textbook inflation trend. Labouré CFO Mark Virello reports average book costs have remained flat—a big win for students.
  • Broward College, Florida:  Across its six bookstores, they have adopted several alternative low-cost textbook options including rentals, eBooks, and customized content. George G. Masforroll, associate vice president for auxiliary services, believes superior customer service is the key to staying competitive with outside sellers.
  • University of Colorado, Boulder: In conjunction with the disability services office, CU-Boulder has implemented a new tool to meet the growing demand for textbooks and course materials in alternative formats.

Similar to what we’ve seen in our own surveys, the article confirms that price is top of mind for many students shopping for course materials. Our partner schools can attest to two trends mentioned here: the price of education is on the rise and students are becoming savvier shoppers. Many students today are leaving the bookstore to shop for cheaper textbook alternatives, if they are looking to purchase or rent their course materials at all.  In order to keep up, institutions nationwide must find a way to compete in the market.

For the full article, click here.

To learn more about the Labouré College virtual bookstore, visit the Akademos Partner Schools page.

Topics: Company News

Davenport students cut shopping time and save $550,000 in first term

Posted by John Squires on April 15, 2014

Last year Davenport University came to us with a problem--their students were complaining about high textbook costs. Davenport had made the transition to an online bookstore for its 12 campuses in 2010, but the growth of online buying options was putting continual pressure on the school to find a better way to lower the cost of course materials in order to satisfy their students.

Akademos worked with Davenport to develop a new shopping experience for students, integrating course information and financial aid to give Davenport students a unique, personalized store. The new store dramatically reduced student shopping time and the integrated marketplace provided highly competitive pricing for students. Store utilization and overall student satisfaction have both improved since the launch of the new DU Online Bookstore.

Infographic-Du_final-2

Topics: Textbook Affordability

Saint Leo University Has Mastered Textbook Affordability

Posted by John Squires on January 20, 2014

President Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. provides some excellent tips in this article on how the university has made its textbooks more affordable.  Check out his tips on how they accomplished this here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-arthur-f-kirk-jr/textbooks-costs-continue-_b_4612606.html.  This is exactly the kind of advice we offered in our recent survey of Presidents, Provosts and CAOs.  For the complete report see:  http://www.akademos.com/blog/2013/12/learn-how-to-lower-textbook-costs-while-increasing-student-and-faculty-satisfaction-at-your-school/.

Topics: Textbook Affordability

How to Implement an Online Bookstore and Reduce Textbook Costs, Webinar Registration Now Open!

Posted by John Squires on January 6, 2014

This Webinar will be extremely informative for schools looking to reduce textbook prices and increase student satisfaction.

Live Webinar date: January 20, 2015

Time: 1:00 PM-2:00 PM ET

Registration: Space is limited! Register online.

Presenters: John Jay College CIO Joseph Laub & Geoff Katz ,VP of Program Management at Akademos

Overview: Last year, John Jay College identified the diminishing returns of a brick and mortar school bookstore for both students and for the college itself. In a survey administered by the school, 77% of students reported they might not buy textbooks for one or more of their classes due to the high cost of materials. Based upon these findings, there was a clear need to do something significant in order to reduce textbook costs and drive student success.

John Jay, in just 2 months, launched a new bookstore solution that was fully integrated with its student and faculty systems.  As a result, students were highly satisfied with the service (90% reporting the experience was “easy to navigate”) and to date have saved over $157,000.

Wondering how they did it? Join this webinar for a behind-the-scenes look at John Jay’s approach to implementing an integrated bookstore solution.

Find out:

  • The steps John Jay took and how to make it work for your school
  • How Akademos’ SIS/ERP integration technology delivers a personalized student shopping experience
  • Other important Institutional and student benefits, like financial aid integration, reporting, and much more
John-Jay-Bookstore-Mobile-Site1

Topics: Webinars & Events, Textbook Affordability

Learn how to lower textbook costs while increasing student and faculty satisfaction at your school bookstore

Posted by John Squires on December 12, 2013

We are pleased to announce that our college President, Provost, and CAO survey on textbook trends is now complete!

What did we find? Schools with textbook affordability programs report lower textbook costs, as well as higher student and faculty satisfaction with textbook costs.

The bad news? Only 16% of schools surveyed reported having a formal textbook affordability program.

The good news? Our report includes some simple tips for starting and/or optimizing a textbook affordability program at your school.

Below are some additional key findings:

  • 93% of respondents agree that textbook costs impact retention and persistence/completion.
  • The majority of faculty and students are dissatisfied with textbook prices.
  • Obstacles to reducing textbook costs included the perception that publisher prices are increasing, that no one person or department is accountable, and that faculty don’t consider price in selecting appropriate texts.

As you may recall, in our CFO Survey on Textbook Delivery and Bookstore Services, 89% of respondents confirmed that students were leaving the campus-based bookstore to shop elsewhere.  High cost is the leading factor that’s driving students away.

A big thank you to our 500 participants for their time and feedback- we couldn’t have done it without you. If you were unable to participate in our last survey – email us! We’d love to hear your opinion on textbook delivery and the future of bookstore services.

You can download the executive summary white paper from our Resources page.

Topics: Research, Textbook Affordability